For a man by the name of Kawagishi, it only took a few minutes to decide what he wanted to devote the rest of his life to.
On March 11, 2011 a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck the northeastern coast (Tohoku region) of Japan, triggering an unexpectedly colossal tsunami that washed away numerous cities and took the lives of tens of thousands of people. At the time of the disaster, Kawagishi lived in Nagoya, an urban city in Central Japan that wasn't affected by the disaster. He was the owner of a popular Japanese-style restaurant and bar (izakaya, in Japanese) called 'Kawa chan', from his own name. Kawagishi found out about the diaster while browsing the internet on his cell phone. That was his call.
It took Kawagishi a month to close down his restaurant in Nagoya. He left his life and business behind, and headed on a one-man quest to the small, seaside town of Yamada in the Iwate Prefecture, which had lost over 800 lives in the tsunami. Yamada was left in ruins from the thousands of homes and shops that were carried inland with the waves.
In Yamada, Kawagishi first volunteered as a bus driver, transporting volunteers like himself to affected areas. He also worked as a cook at evacuation centers, often schools, to serve meals to tsunami victims who had nowhere else to go at the time. He hoped that someday he could open a restaurant as a way to give back to the people of the community.
And in 2014, Kawagishi reopened his Nagoya restaurant, 'Kawa chan', but this time in Yamada. Rebuilt in a temporary construction unit, it now stands in a miniature 'town center' amongst other restaurants.
When asked why he came to such a faraway community to volunteer, he responded:
The cook's humorous character has made 'Kawa chan' a gem of the local area.