This weekend’s Japanese Film Festival features movies that focus on connections.
In one case it’s the ties between the living and the dead, and in the other it’s the bond between a man and the bowl of noodles he’s poured his soul into creating.
God of Ramen is the award-winning documentary about the Japanese noodle house East Ikebukuro Taishoken and its chef Kazuo Yamagishi.
While North Americans may associate the lowly noodle with a college student’s budget-friendly diet, Yamagishi elevated it to something people would travel from all around the country to get.
At the peak of his popularity, hungry customers would line up for hours outside of his restaurant just to get their hands on a bowl.
The documentary features 10 years of footage from inside and outside the kitchen. It follows the life of the chef, including his personal struggles, even as the popularity of his noodles soar.
The three-part documentary series that was turned into the film won a Silver Screen award at the US International Film and Video Festival in 2012.
“This touching documentary takes a close look at the life and times of one very hard-working man and his family, tracing the journey of his storied shop and the many lives it touched,” festival officials wrote at the time.
“We followed Kazuo Yamagishi for 10 years, learning the secret of his success, of the respect he earned with his many apprentices and the loyalty of his customers. And bit-by-bit, we got closer to uncovering the mystery that surrounded him.”
The film has been shown at film festivals around the world.
The Japanese Canadian Association of Yukon has held its film festival for the last five years.
President Fumi Torigai says the idea is to celebrate Japanese culture and also recognize human nature that crosses cultural lines.
“To get to know the Japanese culture, Japanese people, how they live, how they feel how they are different from Canadians, how they are the same and what kind of commonalities we have,” he says.
“After all, we are all humans and we feel we have the same joys, disappointments, sadness and everything.”
The second film scheduled to play that evening is Until the Break of Dawn. The movie is based on a novel by Japanese author Mizuki Tsujimura.
“The story is about people who hope to see someone special they have lost and the emotional conflicts and growth of the young man who becomes deeply involved in their lives as the Connector, or the intermediary between the living and the dead,” a summary of the movie says.
“It is an exquisite tale about the bonding and connections between people, things that the Japanese value most today.”
Both films are in Japanese with English subtitles.
The movies are coming to Whitehorse as part of a cross-Canada tour sponsored by the consulate general of Japan in Vancouver and the Japan Foundation, Torigai said.
There’s no cost to attend.
Torigai says the association doesn’t expect to make money on the event, but they will be running with the theme of the first movie and selling some genuine Japanese ramen noodles.
“Partly for fundraising and partly for fun,” he says.
A member of the association was in Vancouver recently and picked up noodles that came from Japan. Torigai didn’t know the specific brand, but said you can’t get them in the Yukon.
“I haven’t tasted them yet. Our member tried and she said they are pretty good.”
It’ll be $5 for two ramen packages.
Right now there are about 70 members of the Japanese Canadian Association of Yukon.
Torigai says their events attract people from all different cultures.
“All the events in Whitehorse, we seem to get a lot of support. There seems to be a group of people who really look forward to the film festivals.”
The film festival is on Sunday at the Old Fire Hall.
God of Ramen is scheduled to start at 3:15 p.m. Until the Break of Dawn will start at 6 p.m.
Contact Ashley Joannou