Bikkuri Donkey is a popular chain of family restaurants, eating establishments that lie somewhere between fast food and bar-and-grill type businesses. With a name that means “surprised donkey”, the buildings usually have a zany décor resembling a run-down shack and a generally lighthearted atmosphere. However, there is one thing that the chain takes very seriously.
At about midnight on the evening of Jan 15, many late-night diners were being served at the Bikkuri Donkey in Tagajo City, Miyagi Prefecture. At about 12:15 a.m. a tsunami alert was issued for the area because of the massive volcanic eruption near Tonga, and the restaurant instructed all the customers to leave immediately.
According to reports, the staff wanted all the customers to leave as soon as possible and announced that no one needed to pay for their food. Even when diners insisted on paying, they were refused by the staff and told to go to safety immediately.
After the tsunami warning was lifted, one customer said on Twitter that they returned to the store in an attempt to pay for their meal from the previous night, but were again politely refused. The staff said that there was no need because they were simply following company policy to value human life above all else.
The company which owns Bikkuri Donkey, Aleph, spoke with media and confirmed the company policy to evacuate immediately during tsunami warnings. There is no official rule regarding payment, but they said they supported the Tagajo store’s decision in this instance.
It should be no surprise that Tagajo in particular takes tsunami warnings extremely seriously. On March 11, 2011, the coastal city was directly in the path of one of the most destructive waves in recent history.
Even despite this location’s own experiences with disasters, people online felt they went above and beyond in placing human life above money.
“That’s how it should be! I knew a place that tried to settle everyone’s bills while a fire alarm was going off.”
“The staff there were great to take care of everyone and make sure they got out safely first.”
“A restaurant that considers my safety is a restaurant I want to eat at.”
“I used to live in that area and the response by those people made me proud to be from there.”
“It’s important for the customers not to put up a fuss in that situation so the staff can also evacuate quickly.”
“I stopped going to Bikkuri Donkey after my kids grew up, but now I think I’ll start going again.”
“In 2011, the road that restaurant was on was completely underwater. That memory doesn’t go away.”
Speaking of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, at that time Tonga, of any country in the world, is said to have donated the largest portion of its own GDP to relief efforts in Japan. Now, the Japanese government has already responded to a request for aid from the government in Tonga and are currently assessing what is needed and how best to get it there. They also pledged to work with Australia and New Zealand in rebuilding efforts moving forward.
For those living in Japan who also want to return the favor, the Embassy of Tonga in Tokyo is posting regular updates on their Twitter account and would be a good reference for reliable support channels once they’ve been confirmed.
And any money leftover from donating might be well spent on a tasty hamburg steak from Bikkuri Donkey. Humanity aside, they were also named the third best chain restaurant in Japan in a 2014 survey.
Source: Maidona News, J-Cast News, Mainichi Shimbun, Toshi Tomie No Blog
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