For thousands of people who flock every year from every corner of Japan, eating at humble ramen shop Taishoken, is worth the two hour wait. It isn’t just the simply delicious ramen which draws crowds; it’s a belief, that this tasty dish is even better when cheery faced and kind hearted Kazuo Yamagishi makes it. In this intimate documentary, Director Takashi Innami delves into Yamagishi’s life over a seven year period, uncovering more than just a good recipe and 46 years mastering a craft.
Next to the Sunshine 60 building in Higashi-Ikebukuro, Taishoken stands. It always has a long line outside it, except for Wednesdays when it’s closed. Devout regulars turn up around 8am and by 11am when the shop opens; the last person in line has turned away at least 50 newcomers. The 16 seater shop is never empty and serves over 200 bowls of ramen a day.
The film’s focuses on Yamagishi, seeking to uncover his story, from his childhood in Yamanouchi to his decision to become a ramen chef and his years working thereafter. As more and more aspects of Yamagishi’s life are revealed, it’s hard to not be completely sold by his personality, in all of its stubbornness and generousity. The unsuspecting impact he’s made on those he’s come in contact with, is fleshed out in a series of hilarious and touching conversations with regulars, apprentices and some of his middle school chums.
The light-heartedness of the film takes a serious turn however, once Yamagishi’s medical problems come to light. Haunting loneliness from losing his wife 20 odd years ago, the slow demise of his shop to competition and his body’s inability to keep up, results in an engaging emotional roller coaster ride. Innami’s rudimentary style of filming and his ad-hoc visits capture the evolving state of affairs in a raw exposed manner, which is easy to connect with.
The God of Ramen is the story of an ordinary life making an extraordinary impact, studded with colour and warmth, it’s a better than fiction tale with a message that one person really can make a difference, in the most surprising way.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 97 minutes (w/English Subtitles)
The God of Ramen is screening as part of the 17th annual Japanese Film Festival, for more information and session times please visit http://japanesefilmfestival.net/