Tatsuro Hamada
2018winners contribution to society
Providing more than 100,000 servings of ramen at disaster areas across Japan and assisting persons with disabilities in finding employment
Tatsuro Hamada

Born: 1944

Award summary

Hurrying to disaster areas across Japan with friends to provide more than 100,000 servings of ramen free of charge

Tatsuro Hamada (age 74), who started the NPO Volunteer Friends Kyushu Ramen Party in Mashiki, Kumamoto and is managing both facilities to help persons with disabilities find employment and ramen shops, has been traveling to disability facilities and disaster areas across Japan to provide handmade ramen free of charge for 30 years.

Hamada's activities started with the Ramen Volunteers, where they treated persons with disabilities using facilities to ramen. It all started in 1989 when Hamada made a delivery from a ramen shop that he was running to a newly established nearby facility for persons with intellectual disabilities. A boy with disabilities rushed forward to him, crying out loudly. As Hamada took a step back so as not to spill any of the ramen, the boy reached out and grabbed the wooden box. It was a pure act of simply wanting to help Hamada.

Hamada was touched by the boy's act and embarrassed by his own prejudice, and so this event became the starting point for the volunteers visiting facilities for persons with disabilities and the elderly to serve them ramen.

In 1991, the Fugen peak of Mt. Unzen in Nagasaki Prefecture erupted. Immediately afterward, Hamada loaded a minivan with tools and ingredients for making ramen, visited disability facilities in the affected Unzen, and served them ramen. The disaster support he provided then became the starting point of the Kyushu Ramen Party that he and 19 others founded in December 1992.

The disaster support activities of the Kyushu Ramen Party started after the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995. Hamada and the other party members jumped in a microbus together with pots, stoves, and other cooking tools as well as ramen ingredients, and headed to the disaster area. During this time, they served 1,000 servings of ramen over 3 days. Hamada remembers the happy faces of all the disaster victims as they were eating the just made warm ramen in the freezing disaster area.

After this, members of the party continued to travel to and provide support at disaster areas such as after the Shiranui storm surge, the Miyake Island eruption, the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the heavy rains over northern Kyushu. Then, during the Kumamoto Earthquakes in April 2016, Hamada was personally affected such as his home being partially destroyed, but he nonetheless continued to provide disaster support without resting.

In April 1999, the Kyushu Ramen Party became the first NPO approved by Kumamoto Prefecture. Since its founding until today, its two constant pillars have been 1. disaster support (= making ramen) and 2. disability support. As part of their work to help persons with disabilities find employment, they opened a ramen shop directly managed by the Kyushu Ramen Party in Mashiki in July 2017.

Ever since serving ramen to persons with disabilities in his hometown of Mashiki in 1989, Hamada has gone to about 650 disaster areas and disability facilities to provide ramen free of charge. The number of servings exceeds 100,000. Hamada's activities with the Kyushu Ramen Party will continue from here on as well.

Hamada brings pots, hobs, ingredients, etc. to disaster areas and serves ramen with his friends

"Kyushu Ramen Party" store opened in 2017 as a new employment support for people with disabilities

"Sokokaze Welfare Workplace" established to support employment of people with disabilities

Hamada's ramen has warmed the hearts and bodies of people in disaster area

Reasons for this award

Continuing for as long as 30 years, he has warmed people's hearts and also helped persons with disabilities find employment

How much one bowl of ramen must have warmed the hearts and bodies of those people suffering in disaster areas! I am moved by this. It is no small feat to continue this for as long as 30 years even as he himself was affected by a disaster. One can really feel how much Hamada "wants to warm people's hearts" from how he also runs a place for persons with disabilities to work and assists others in finding employment.

Comments from the winner

I am sincerely grateful that you selected me. I have many friends helping me out. "Friends in the local area with the same mindset, working together" and "friends with disabilities at our welfare facility, the smallest in Japan." Also, "my supportive family." I want to share the joy of this award with them. I will continue to support people through ramen. Thank you very much.