Mr. Yuetsu Abe, President of
Mr. Abe is a quiet person with a strong determination, and he is of my father’s generation. His energy to start his business all over again at the age of 70 is impressive, and he is a wonderful person. Having recovered two of the dough mixers, his loving bakery tools, in the tsunami-caused rubbles led him to decide to start his business again. He had these mixers repaired and carried them to Tottori. They are in good operating conditions now.
Shoku Ken, is a person who is trying to start over again in Tottori. When I read a newspaper article about him, I said to myself, “I have to meet him!.” And today I’m at Houki Cho, Saieki-Gun, Tottori Prefecture.
When I was a third grader, I had a chance to visit his bread factory, “Maruyu Bakery,” through a school field trip. At the end of the factory tour, all of us got sweet bread shaped like Ampan Man, a TV animation character. Mr. Abe’s bakery supplied bread for school lunches. So all of the children in Onagawa grew up with his bread! His bakery was a part of our community.
Four months before the great earthquake, Mr. Abe and his business partner, Mr. Matsubara, set up a non-profit organization called “Bright Onagawa” to help disabled people get a job and earn their living to support themselves. They began distributing Karinto cookie dough to institutions all over Japan. A new machine to make Karinto cookies was installed in December. An office was leased in Onagawa by Mr. Matsubara in December. They finished moving to the newly released building in the morning of March 11. The future looked good…. then the tragedy of tsunami happened on the very same day.
If they stop now, there will be a subsequent damage. Jobs for the disabled will be lost. With these thoughts, they left Onagawa on April 4 and headed for Tottori, Mr. Matsubara’s home town. By June 1, they were able to begin baking Karinto cookies again
“Onagawa folks say I have abandoned the town,” he grumbled. Mr. Abe did not abandon the town, but he wanted to respond as quickly as possible to the institutions all over Japan that were waiting for Karinto cookies.
Mr. Abe says “It takes 10 years to start a new business.” That means he began planning this business when he was 60 years old. It must have been difficult to start something new in Onagawa, a small town that resists change. It was especially hard to start not just a business but a project to help the disabled make their own living. He explained: “I thought about quitting many times, but each time I overcame the discouragement and moved ahead.”
The great tsunami took away everything, but Mr. Abe’s passion. He is starting new in a strange town…..
Traveling to Tottori and meeting Mr. Abe saved my soul. He is so much like my late father, with extraordinary passion and a broad view looking at the world.
I’m overwhelmed by the energy of Mr. Abe. Because I can no longer hear my father’s voice, I especially enjoyed talking with Mr. Abe.
He was pleased with our meeting where he could hear and speak with an Onagawa accent after he had moved to Tottori, and shared with me the story of how he escaped the tsunami and how he started working on a comeback life. Thank you, Mr. Abe.