SAKAI, Fukui Prefecture--A kind-hearted restaurant worker became the savior of hungry drivers stranded in snow here on Feb. 7 when he opened the outlet’s kitchen especially to cook around 500 meals and dish them out for free.

Yukinori Nakayama, assistant manager of Gyoza no Osho’s Maruoka branch along blizzard-hit National Route No. 8 in northwestern Japan, took action when he went to check on the restaurant on the morning of Feb. 7 and saw a long line of cars stuck outside.

Many had got caught up in the massive traffic jam from Feb. 6 on the road stretching between Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures without sufficient food supplies.

The restaurant had been closed since the day before due to heavy snowfall, but Nakayama, 41, came up with the idea of offering free meals using what was available in the fridge.

After contacting his boss and getting the go-ahead for the charitable effort, Nakayama set to work and started cooking dishes from the afternoon nonstop.

The impromptu menu included sweet-sour pork, fried rice, deep-fried noodles and signature gyoza, which Nakayama packed up and delivered to drivers by walking up and down the snow-covered road.

“We usually don’t cook this much food continuously,” said Nakayama. “Walking down the road (in deep snow) was also a hard job. I am so tired.”

Not many staff could reach the restaurant due to the crippled road network, so Nakayama made an urgent call for help to ex-colleague Rina Umemura, 22, who worked part time at the branch three years ago and lives in the neighborhood.

“I was exhausted for the first time in a while, but it was worth it,” said a smiling Umemura.

One of the stranded was a truck driver who frequents Gyoza no Osho restaurants.

“Can I really have this?” said the surprised but overjoyed driver. “I will stop by again.”

Nakayama’s good deed was inspired by his experience of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake when he was a teenager working part time at a Gyoza no Osho branch in Kawanishi, Hyogo Prefecture.

“The manager decided to open the restaurant on the very day of the earthquake, despite the water being cut off, and offered gyoza and other food (for free),” said Nakayama. “I can’t forget the faces of the customers of that day. Restaurant operators have got to help the public in this kind of situation.”

Also stuck on Route No. 8 were 18 Yamazaki Baking Co. delivery trucks, loaded with loaves, buns and sandwiches.

On learning they would not be able to deliver the products to retailers and clients on time, they decided to give away their goodies to the stranded drivers and others affected by the snow for free.

A truck driver from Niigata Prefecture stuck on the section of the road in the city of Awara, north of Sakai, received seven packets of savory and sweet buns from one of the Yamazaki trucks on the afternoon of Feb. 7.

“Take as much as you want,” the bread delivery driver was quoted as saying.

“Without the free bread, I would have been starving after eating up what I already had,” said the truck driver. “It really saved me.”