A decade ago, Hiroaki Suzuki was a mid-twenties automotive engineer working in his hometown of Utsunomiya when an evening at a local yakitori restaurant prompted him to abruptly change the course of his life.

As Suzuki ate, a diner sitting near him finished their meal and thanked the chef not with using the standard phrase gochisou-sama deshita (literally translated as “it was a feast”) but with the more direct arigato.

Unable to view this article?

This could be due to a conflict with your ad-blocking or security software.

Please add japantimes.co.jp and piano.io to your list of allowed sites.

If this does not resolve the issue or you are unable to add the domains to your allowlist, please see out this support page.

We humbly apologize for the inconvenience.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.