The film, Tampopo, is an adventure in food. Throughout the film, we are presented with scenes of Japanese people handling, preparing, and consuming food. It is the traditions of Japan that guides these people in their experience with food.
The main story is about a posse of people who come together to bring new life to a woman’s rundown ramen shop. Each person come from different backgrounds: a woman struggling to survive, two truck drivers, young and old, an old master with experience in gourmet cooking, a chauffeur of a rich family, and a contractor. With their combined experiences, they are able to transform the shoddy shop and lacking ramen recipe into a first-rate ramen shop.
In the beginning, Gun reads a book about a man who eats ramen with an old expert in ramen. The old man had studied ramen for 40 years. He teaches to appreciate and respect the bowl of soup offered to them, and to notice the details. This type of behavior is much like a connoisseur, and given his background, he can inspect that not only is the bowl of ramen the way it should be, but also any inconsistencies that may make it better or worse in comparison to others. His long experience with ramen indicates that ramen has existed for a long time, and the old man may be able to notice the evolution of ramen throughout his experiences.
Tampopo and her crew ventures to perfect her ramen recipe. However, she doesn’t do this through experimentation, but rather she seeks improvement in her recipe through her friends and rivals. She first finds a shop in which she likes the soup. Her efforts to copy his technique ended in failure, but she was able to learn how to make the soup through an old master. Later, she learns how to improve the consistency of her noodles through the chauffeur’s help and her skill in tricking another shop owner into telling her how he makes his noodles so smooth, yet firm. Goro is also instrumental in developing her behavior while serving customers, using well-established behaviors from shops that are successful. Gun and Pisken, the contractor, serves to bring her, and her shop’s, appearances up to date.
Throughout the film, there are little side-scenes that portray the traditions of the time. In the scene with the businessmen eating together, the most senior sits first, and the most junior sits last. Also, the most senior chooses the meal that everybody will eat. When the most junior orders something different than the rest of the group, we see everyone’s faces turn red out of anger. In another scene, a woman is teaching everyone how to eat pasta abroad. In Japanese tradition, everyone noisily slurps their noodles as a sign that they feel the food is delicious. The woman is teaching to eat as quietly as possible, but her lesson is futile when a Caucasian man is seen noisily slurping his pasta.
The film Tampopo is about the Japanese traditions of food. These traditions have developed for many years, which makes food masters’ existence possible. Sometimes traditions form from deviations from the norm; however, the woman Tampopo stayed with current traditions to make a delicious ramen that have been perfected and approved by five men of experience. The choice to make ramen the way it is supposed to be made was a recipe for success for Tampopo.