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Northeast Japan restaurant praised for prioritizing evacuation after tsunami warning

This image shows the branch of hamburger steak restaurant chain Bikkuri Donkey in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, on Jan. 19, 2022 (Mainichi/Nobuyuki Hyakutake)

ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi -- Hamburger steak restaurant chain Bikkuri Donkey's Tagajo branch in Miyagi Prefecture is being praised on social media for prioritizing the evacuation of customers without asking them to pay in the early morning on Jan. 16 when a tsunami warning was issued in the northeast Japan prefecture following the volcanic eruption off the coast of Tonga in the south Pacific Ocean.

    A Twitter account under the name Mana tweeted at 1:54 a.m. on the very day, saying, "They (the store) gave priority to evacuation guidance and told us we didn't need to pay for our meals that day ... I take my hat off to the staff who prioritized human life." Many people retweeted the post, which had 306,000 likes as of 6 p.m. on Jan. 18.

    According to Mana, an employee at the restaurant in the Miyagi Prefecture city of Tagajo asked them, "Would you please go home just as you are?" soon after the tsunami warning and evacuation order were issued at around 0:15 a.m. As Mana had already finished eating, they told the employee they would pay for the meal. However, the worker urged them to "evacuate in any case," and Mana was able to return home in the prefectural city of Sendai immediately.

    Mana, who is a manager of a drugstore, said, "I felt sorry for not paying for my meal, but I was deeply moved by the split-second decision of the store manager, who is in the same position as me, to prioritize human lives as well as the staff's response, and wanted more people to know."

    A screenshot of Mana's tweet thanking the response taken by hamburger steak restaurant chain Bikkuri Donkey's Tagajo branch is seen with 306,000 likes.

    Public relations official Daisuke Watanabe at Sapporo-based Aleph Inc., which operates Bikkuri Donkey stores nationwide, explained, "Our company manual states that 'ensuring the safety of customers and employees including yourself is top priority' and it was an appropriate response that understood what that meant."

    The area around the store was flooded when tsunami hit following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and Tagajo branch employees apparently evacuated without cleaning up after the latest tsunami warning. Watanabe thanked Mana by stating, "We appreciate them sharing our response, which was only proper, in a good way."

    (Japanese original by Nobuyuki Hyakutake, Ishinomaki Local Bureau)

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