"The Dwight Moody of Japan"
CHI NO SHIO: YAMAMURO GUNPEI HAHA NO NEGAI is a Japanese biopic about Gunpei Yamamuro (1872-1940), the man responsible for the spread of the Salvation Army throughout Japan. The movie’s strong Christian, biblical, moral worldview places the importance of Christian love at the center of the story.
THE SALT OF THE EARTH, GUNPEI YAMAMURO is the biopic of Gunpei Yamamuro (portrayed by popular Japanese actor Ryu Morioka), the man who adapted the Salvation Army to Japanese culture. His actions helped establish the Army’s evangelistic and charitable work, and its outreach to the poor, freeing as many as 10,000 young women and girls from a life of forced prostitution. The movie’s central message is the importance of Christian love and self-sacrifice, or living the Beatitudes while preaching the Gospel. The comprehensive life story follows Yamamuro’s life from his birth in 1872 to his death in 1940, referring to virtually every signpost in his life along the way.
Gunopei Yamamuro was born into a poor farming family and nearly died at birth. His mother prays for his survival, so he can serve God and man. As a token of her sincerity, she promises never again to eat an egg. After several life-changing encounters with poverty and sickness, Gunpei looks for a way to dedicate his life to preaching the Gospel to the simple and underprivileged masses. He faces a double-barrier, as Christianity is still considered a Western religion that appeals only to intellectuals. After a door miraculously opens for him to study for the ministry, it slams shut when the school is overtaken by theological liberals who deny Christ’s resurrection and Biblical inerrancy.
In time, he discovers the Salvation Army (“Kyu-Sei-Gun” in Japanese) and devotes his life to freeing thousands of young women sold into prostitution, as well as helping earthquake victims, orphans and the poor. His ability to present a foreign cultural institution in a way that common Japanese people understand made him a powerful advocate of the Gospel. One character calls him “the Dwight Moody of Japan.” He is often subject to persecution, as a Westernizer or someone ruining the pimps’ business, constantly rejoicing in his sorrows. He is aided by his wife, Kieko Sato Yamamuro (played by Miwako Wagatsuma), a helpmate in every way, who bears him eight children.
THE SALT OF THE EARTH, GUNPEI YAMAMURO has an almost continuous Christian presence in every scene. Someone is presented in prayer on average every six minutes of the movie, not including numerous scenes of people quoting the Bible (often at length), church services and street evangelism – even the singing of “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” in Japanese! The movie’s content will inspire those who already believe, but some cultural issues (the significance of the egg in turn-of-the-century Japanese diet, for instance) limit its impact on those who don’t believe. While both Morioka and Wagatsuma are well-regarded actors in Japan, their performances seemed off-kilter, though less so than the American missionaries, who come across as wooden. Some technical elements also were missed, particularly the attempt to age the main character. Morioka looks no older on his deathbed than he does 40 years earlier. Also, some moderate violence, and the voracious eating of a dead cat, will put off other audiences, especially in America.
That said, Gunpei’s life story is an inspiration to all who see it. Christians should see his life as an example of what is possible when one person from seemingly impossible circumstances devotes his life and talents to Jesus. There is also an inspiring secondary story about the importance of self-sacrifice, particularly well executed by Gunpei’s mother and a close friend. Caution is advised for younger children because of some violence and the eating of a dead cat.
(CCC, BBB, Acap, Cap, VV, S, N, D, M) Very strong Christian, biblical worldview about the importance of sacrificing one’s will, preaching with love, and giving one’s life for the poor, with almost continuous depictions of characters in prayer (18 in all, beginning literally with the first scene), 29 references to God not including variations (“Lord,” “Jesus,” “Holy Spirit”), another 18 scenes of evangelism and preaching or singing on the street or in church, seven direct quotations from the Bible, and multiple depictions of the Cross and church settings, plus light anti-capitalist message shows a heartless pawnbroker cracking down on the poor, but Westernization is also said to bring prosperity; no foul language; moderate violence includes two massive fight scenes with modest bloodshed, hitting people with sticks, two scenes showing people throwing things at street preachers, one depicted slap, and one reference to a woman playfully receiving a Judo throw off-screen from her brother; 15 references to prostitution or human trafficking, including one character referring to visiting a brothel off-screen; upper male nudity of a Japanese man in a loincloth; no alcohol use; two smoking scenes show characters smoking cigarettes and a pipe, respectively; and, miscellaneous elements include the depiction of a dead cat floating in the water, who is eaten, and one depiction of vomiting (which is, surprisingly, not related to the cat cuisine).
THE SALT OF THE EARTH, GUNPEI YAMAMURO presents the life of Gunpei Yamamuro, the “Dwight Moody of Japan.” Yamamuro, who lived from 1872 to 1940, came from a humble agricultural background. Through his devout mother’s prayers, Gunpei chose to serve the poor. He’s best known for making the Salvation Army acceptable to Japanese culture and for his influential book, THE COMMON PEOPLE’S GOSPEL. He also touches the lives of touching tens of thousands of women and girls forced into prostitution, earthquake victims and orphans.
THE SALT OF THE EARTH, GUNPEI YAMAMURO has a continuous Christian presence in every scene. The movie will inspire those who already believe, but some cultural issues may limit its impact on non-believers. Also, some of the acting is a bit wooden. That said, Gunpei’s life serves as an example of what is possible when one person from seemingly impossible circumstances devotes his life to Jesus. CHI NO SHIO also has an inspiring secondary story about the self-sacrifice of Gunpei’s mother and a close friend. Caution is advised for younger children because of some violence and the eating of a dead cat.