There is a small restaurant in a Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, residential neighborhood about a 15-minute drive from JR Aihara Station. It opened just this past April, and its most popular menu items so far are a slow-cooked beef stew and pasta with mustard greens. Not especially remarkable, perhaps, but the proprietor is another story.
Hiroaki Ushijima, 59, was once a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) detective. He left the force two years ago, three years before retirement age, to create an NPO, and opened the restaurant to generate funds to support sporting events and other programs for the disabled.
Ushijima had a storied career in the MPD. He was the detective who discovered the hideout of AUM Shinrikyo cult leader Chizuo Matsumoto, aka Shoko Asahara, the man convicted of ordering the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. It was Ushijima who put the cuffs on Matsumoto, and the detective went on to chase down the culprits in multiple heinous crimes.
Ushijima's life as an investigator was driven by the tension of the job and a sense of mission. Eventually, however, he found himself office-bound, and "deskwork doesn't suit my character," he says. The last post he held in the MPD was community section chief clerk at the Shinjuku Police Station, and then he began his second life.
Cooking up a storm in the new restaurant's kitchen is the 55-year-old head chef. A onetime juvenile delinquent, the chef lost the sight in his left eye as a child when a friend stabbed it with a nail. Ushijima resolved to start his NPO after meeting the man, thinking that he wanted to "treat every once-in-a-lifetime encounter as important, and to keep on being useful to people."
As he speaks, Ushijima's eyes look softer, calmer than they once did, when he was still hunting down criminals as an MPD detective.