SAKAI, Fukui -- A restaurant along a blizzard-hit national route where hundreds of vehicles were stranded opened its doors to drivers on Feb. 8 and served them hot meals of ramen and fried rice free of charge.
The Maruoka branch of the Gyoza no Osho restaurant chain in Sakai, Fukui Prefecture, had to suspend regular operations from Feb. 6 due to heavy snow. Between Feb. 7 and 8, restaurant workers also carried meals to people in stranded vehicles. The hot meals brought smiles to the faces of the hungry and cold people in the vehicles.
The idea to dish out free food came from restaurant assistant manager Yukinori Nakayama, 41. In 1995, when he was working part-time at a Gyoza no Osho restaurant in Kawanishi, Hyogo Prefecture, the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck, and his boss decided to cook rice for quake survivors. Nakayama remembered how the people expressed their gratitude and how he later felt that it was a good thing to do.
"The starting point for a restaurant is to have people be delighted with the food," Nakayama explained. "It's precisely in times of trouble that we come together to help each other."
Ryo Otsu, a 28-year-old truck driver from the Aichi Prefecture city of Toyota who ate at the restaurant appeared delighted with his bowl of ramen.
"I've been stuck since about 6 a.m. on Feb. 6. This is the first hot food I've had in a while, and it's warmed up my body and heart," he said.