When the Great Hanshin Earthquake hit in January 1995, Taro Tamura, then 23, was quick to sense the need in foreign communities for disaster-related information.

Three days after the temblor devastated Kobe and the surrounding areas, Tamura launched a volunteer-based disaster information center for foreigners. He only planned to run it for two weeks, after which he expected things to calm down.

But the job morphed into something bigger, eventually becoming his life's work.