Dining on Ramen and Talking to the Dead

On November 23,The Old Fire Hall will once again host a free mini-festival of Japanese films, hosted by the Japanese Canadian Association of Yukon (JCAY). This time it’s a double bill, with one film extolling the virtues of a noted Japanese food staple and its creator, and the other exploring communication with the dead.

God Of Ramen is a delightful documentary about Tokyo chef Kazuo Yamagishi.

For more than 40 years his tiny Taishoken restaurant in Tokyo’s East Ikebukuro district has served up its specialty, ramen. It’s a mouth-watering noodle dish that crowds of avid fans, who often wait in line for two hours, have been constantly coming back to savour over the years.

The film describes Taishoken’s humble origins, opening in a Tokyo back alley in 1961, and its rise to international stature.

The fame of its purveyor has also spread far and wide.

Yamagishi is a charismatic man, whose devotion to his trade, and his kindness, have warmed him to his clienteles’ hearts, just as his ramen has warmed their stomachs.

Now in his 70s, Yamagishi has retired, due to ongoing health problems ranging from varicose veins to osteoporosis.

Japanese filmmaker Takashi Innami painstakingly chronicled his career, filming over the course of ten years, and coming up with an award-winning chronicle that’s sure to have you yearning for a heaping bowl of ramen.

The second film, Until The Break Of Dawn, is a story about people who have lost someone through death. It’s also the story of Ayumi, a young high school student who is a “connector”. He functions as an intermediary between the living and the dead.

There are a number of rules that a connector and his petitioners must respect. One is that the living person can only connect with the deceased once in a lifetime. Another is that the request for a meeting cannot be made by the dead person. Yet another is that the meeting between the two can only be held during the night of a full moon, and can only last until the break of dawn.

Ayumi faces three requests for connection during the course of the film.

One is from a scornful middle-aged man, who wishes to see his mother, who died of cancer.

Another is from a schoolgirl, who had a falling-out with her best friend. Before they had a chance to make up, her friend died in a bicycle accident, leaving many unanswered questions.

The third is from a businessman, whose fiancé disappeared suddenly, just after he proposed marriage. He believes against all hope that she is still alive, and seeks Ayumi’s help in solving the mystery.

Both films are heart-warming stories of the beauty and enduring qualities of human bonding and friendship.

They play on Sunday, November 23 at the Old Fire Hall, with God of Ramen showing at 3:15 pm, and Until The Break Of Dawn at 6:00 pm.

Sponsorship of their free showings is courtesy of the Japan Foundation and Vancouver’s Consulate General of Japan.

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