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A resilience lesson from most unlikely place

Tokyo- Ms. Kyoko Amano had made up her mind to close her restaurant. If there ever was a time for closing the restaurant then this was it. Her restaurant, Ungai, a renowned upscale restaurant in Matsushima serving only vegetarian dishes inspired by monk’s food, had suffered major damage during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

She said her restaurant suffered damage from the intense tremors as most of the structure – walls, doors and windows got separated from its seams requiring major repair work, but incredibly no tsunami damage. Matsushima, a coastal town, was a hardest hit area from the tsunami.

Ungai Restaurant back in business.

“The restaurant was closed for a year,” Ms. Amano said.

The restaurant is located next to the Entsuin Hondou Daihitei, which was used by the feudal lord Date Mitsumune as a villa in the Edo (Tokyo) area, but upon his death was removed from Edo and rebuilt in its present location in Matsushima. The main building has been designated as valuable cultural property by the Matsushima town office. Its location was within the main gate that also leads to the Zuiganji Temple - one of Japan’s national treasures.

One day as Ms. Amano exited the main gate walking home with closing of the restaurant a foregone conclusion, her attention was drawn to a budding flower – a butterbur – in all its glory, showing resilience after the destruction wrought by the double disaster ofdss earthquake and the ensuing tsunami.

“When I saw the butterbur, how strong it was, I made a decision to call back the employees back to work,” Amano said.

Ungai restaurant was repaired and reopened for business as it was before. It is as popular as ever with customers reservations being made months in advance to get a slot.Ms. Amano said the maximum number of customers she can serve is 40 at anyone time. Her menu is based on a 12-month calendar. A particular menu of veggie dish is rolled out for each month of the year.

How a simple act of nature, the ability of a butterbur to rejuvenate and shine without care of what had happened, can teach an individual about resilience - to adopt and recover from misfortune. Such is the story of Matsushima – one of the three most scenic spots in Japan - which after the tsunami devastation has built itself to once again becoming one of the top visitor destinations in Miyagi Pefecture.

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