Soba noodles plated with a dipping sauce

Soba Noodles with Dipping Sauce


In March 2011, as the world watched a powerful tsunami rage through Japan, I sat glued to my TV. As a swirl of emotion rose up in me, much like the images of the tumultuous sea devouring everything in its path, I watched in disbelief. Unlike other tragic situations where I’ve felt empathy mixed with a sense of disconnection, this was personal. Japan is a part of me, and I am a part of Japan.

My thoughts began to rewind twenty years to the 1990’s when I lived in the city of Amagasaki. I remembered the sights and smells of the market I passed each day, the sound of trains whirring by and the taste of shabu-shabu, a one-pot broth dish I’d grown to love. Japan is where I discovered all the best parts of myself.

For days after the tsunami, more and more images from the media and my own recollections cluttered my mind. On one particular day when I felt overloaded with all the sadness and helplessness, I received an email about a man who owned a noodle shop. With the massive destruction shining a spotlight on how truly small we all really are, and in the face of overwhelm of all that needed to be done, one man decided to do something. He made noodles. He offered a bowl of comfort and nourishment to anyone who needed it.

I wept when I read his story. The simplicity of his generosity touched me. Noodles, a seemingly insignificant contribution, was his vehicle to connect people and help heal his country.

Fortunately, this is not an isolated incident. There is evidence in every community of people reaching out to others from food drives to soup kitchens. At first it may appear that it is about providing a basic need, but I have a hunch it’s more about connection. I hope the example of the noodle man will inspire others to offer assistance, or better yet, share a meal and get to know one another. What a positive contribution that would be.

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