Japan tsunami: Sushi chef finds his true calling

Japan tsunami: Sushi chef finds his true calling

For 15 years, Mr Takahiro Chiba was a sushi chef at one of the most popular restaurants in Ishinomaki. The restaurant, Sukeroku, was owned by his father. As an only child, Mr Chiba, 41, knew the restaurant would be his one day and "there was no running away from it". But he secretly disliked the restaurant life.

"It didn't interest me. I could guess what I was going to talk about with customers each day. I knew everything that was expected of me every day," he said. "Year after year, the same things were going to happen. I could predict my life for the next 20 years."

It was a routine he never expected to escape.

And then the tsunami came.

"My father's restaurant was severely damaged. Although the building was intact, the facilities were damaged. There was even an overturned car that landed in front of the shop," Mr Chiba recalled.

His home was a mess too. The first floor of his two-storey house was destroyed. Mr Chiba, his wife and three children, now aged between seven and 14, lived out of their bedrooms on the second floor. He spent six months repairing his house, helping his neighbours clean up debris and picking up odd jobs to make ends meet.

Then, a job offer came up. An American couple who owned a Japanese restaurant in Rockland, Maine, needed a sushi chef and wanted to hire someone from the tsunami-stricken area. Everything would be paid for - the visa and the air tickets - and there would be a house for the whole family.

Mr Chiba got the job and saw it as a chance to start life anew, but his visa application was rejected.

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