Mizuki Taira
2009winners self-actualization
Serving as a source of inspiration by baking bread for rehabilitation
Mizuki Taira

born: 1975; former professional bicyclist
Baker, Gateau d'Ange bakery, Kitakamakura

Award summary

During a race in August 2005, professional bicyclist Mizuki Taira, who had nearly reached the top level of his profession, the S Class, tumbled from his bicycle in an accident. When he regained consciousness after being on the brink of death, he was completely paralyzed and unable to speak. He was released from the hospital at the end of the year. After working hard at rehabilitation together with his wife Fusako, whom he had just married in March of that year, he has achieved a miraculous recovery to the point where he is now able to walk with a walker.

Then, he began baking bread on the recommendation of a doctor, who told him that it could help in the rehabilitation of his finger and brain functions. He devoted himself to activities including comparing breads from well-known area bakeries and trying his hand at making different varieties of bread. The bread Mr. Taira made for his wife gained a strong reputation through word of mouth, and in the summer of 2008 he began taking orders over the Internet. It came to be known as "the bread of the angels" (in French, gateau d'ange). Getting up at 4:00 in the morning, he makes three to five loaves of his bread per day, made to order one loaf at a time. His ingredients are chosen with care and he puts his heart into each loaf. When ordering by e-mail, many people write about illness or concerns for their families, and he receives many notes of thanks from people who say his bread has made them feel better or has given them courage for living. He says that the current waiting list includes about 4,000 people-making the current wait two to three years!

Reasons for this award

Today, there is considerable interest in society on the subject of securing places for people to work. After an accident during a race left him unable to continue as a professional bicyclist, Mr. Taira started a second life baking bread, an activity he started for rehabilitation purposes. It is said that the bread he bakes in response to the needs and thoughts of his customers is loved and found encouraging by a large number of people and has come to be known as the "bread of the angels," with its fame spread by word of mouth. Perhaps this is a demonstration of its true power. The devotion of his wife Fusako under such circumstances and his refusal to change his baking style of devoting himself to making just a few loaves a day to order, no matter how many orders are received, are very impressive.

Comments from the winner

I have received many letters from people who say the bread I began baking for rehabilitation purposes has made them very happy. This has been very encouraging, and the thought of baking more bread that people will find delicious has become my medicine.

I am surprised by how something that is just a part of daily life to me has become so well known. While we still cannot believe I have won this award, my wife and I intend to keep doing our best to move forward, without letting up.