Tampopo-Japanese Culture and Cuisine

Juzo Itami’s Tampopo is a film during the 1980s in Japan, centered on the appreciation of food; particularly the fascination with perfecting ramen.  Noodles are a staple of daily Japanese cuisine. This film uniquely depicts the presentation of noodles as both a competitive process and an internally personal and satisfying process for the film’s main character, Tampopo.  Tampopo is willing to go to great lengths, explore every opportunity possible to create the perfect ramen experience for patrons of her restaurant.

Tampopo finally achieved 100% fulfillment of her dream come true, when all of her allies and harshest critics, simultaneously slurped the final broth and set their empty bowls down together on the countertop. The satisfaction that Tampopo experienced at that moment justified her quest for perfection, which is virtually unachievable by most people. Tampopo exhibited an unparalleled level of perseverance toward perfection which was displayed throughout the film. She was relentless in her quest for perfection of the noodle soup prior to launching her new restaurant, Tampopo Ramen. What Tampopo experienced at that moment sincerely justified her quest for perfection.

It is a unanimous decision. Perfect ramen!

As stated by the master, “Noodles are synergetic things. Every step must be perfectly built”. He then proceeded to explain his art form of soup making to Tampopo. Tampopo was following the master’s explanation until he unwrapped the boar’s head; she promptly fainted. The comedic question that inevitably prevails is, does Tampopo have the strength of will and the backbone necessary to continue her quest for perfection of the enviable title of operating the best ramen restaurant in Japan?  The secrecy of recipes resulted due to the competitiveness of soup making. The “noodle” dominated the palate of the most discriminating clientele.

The master calls soup making an art form.

Other unrelated vignettes were inserted throughout the film, contributing to the complex texture by the filmmaker. One such vignette was the teaching of the proper structuring and appreciation of the ramen bowl.  The elder stroked the noodles, submerged the pork, slurped the ramen and drank from the bowl precisely at the most perfect moment for ultimate enjoyment. The youth remained engaged in the process and asked questions of the elder in order to perfect the art of ramen enjoyment. This film exemplified one variation of ramen, which is from the tonkotsu, or pork bone broth soup, with thinly sliced pork loin floating atop.

Savor the flavor!

Within the Japanese culture, families are so respectful and have high expectations regarding their food quality and uninterrupted family food consumption. In this tragic scene, even upon the collapse of the wife and mother, with death imminent, her husband coerced her into preparing what would be the final dinner meal for her family. In spite of the severity of her condition, she gained her final burst of strength. She successfully prepared the nightly meal for her family. The genre of the scene was satirically humorous because of the enormity of her deed, despite her physical malady; but what an exposé that scene exhibited regarding the expectations of the preparation of food for the Japanese family!

The dedicated wife and mother leaves her deathbed to prepare food for her family.

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