The day of the Great East Japan Earthquake is one judoka Shizuka Hangai won't soon forget.
The March 11 earthquake damaged her home in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, and her family had to be evacuated to Niigata Prefecture to escape the leaking radiation from the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
If things were not already bad enough, the same day the soon-to-be college graduate opened an e-mail from a company in Tokyo that had promised her a job, only now the firm was withdrawing the offer.
A student at the National University Corporation Tsukuba University of Technology, the 24-year-old could only stare blankly at the e-mail in her college dorm room, not knowing what to do or where to go.
Hangai had been planning to train for the Paralympics while working for the Tokyo firm, but the company’s only explanation for canceling the job offer was, “We have enough people.”
To her rescue came, Naoya Ogawa.
The 44-year-old Ogawa won a silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona Games and was now running a judo school in Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture.
“At the time, everyone was thinking about how to help disaster victims," Ogawa says.
He hired Hangai as an administrative staff member for the Ogawa dojo support group, which consists of local firms.
Hangai was given the good news 19 days after the earthquake. She says she was more worried about whether she could do the job rather than relieved about finding employment.