Tampopo- Taking Food to the Extreme

ITAMI Juzo’s  film Tampopo, satirizes food in Japan by creating a world in which people use food in an avant-garde way.  The uses of food in this film shown may seem very strange, raising eyebrows, and defying our expectations and experiences for which food is used.  This film is used to satirize traditional values and expectations and push them to their boundaries with these new, peculiar uses of food.  Food is depicted not only as something that is eaten; there is a particular intrigue for food in Japan.  In this film, food is sometimes personified to require special attention or used as an object for pleasure.  The main plot of Tampopo follows the story of Tampopo, a widow ramen cook striving to improve and master her culinary skills in making ramen, but there are also various subplots that are seemingly random and don’t fit into the storyline.  However, these subplots offer significance into ITAMI Juzo’s purpose of the film.  It is these subplots that portray an avant-garde style in which people in the film express through their uses of food.

Gangster and his mistress utilizing food as an object of pleasure

In this scene, a Japanese gangster is in a hotel room with his mistress and this is where we see a very peculiar way to utilize food.  Throughout the scene, the couple engages in sexual acts, but the strangeness comes from when they begin to use food to further pleasure each other.  This is an example in which ITAMI Juzo satirizes the way food is used.  By depicting food being used as part of an act of pleasure, it shows that although food is usually eaten, people do very unusual things with food.  This particular scene defies all that we know about how to deal with food.  As kids, we are taught to not play with our food, but the couple in the scene clearly violates this mannerism by playing with their food in an extreme way.  The use of food as an object of sex is humorous because food, which is something usually meant to be indulged, is portrayed in this scene as enigmatic, leading people to wonder why food is utilized this way.

Ramen sensei enlightening his disciple how to properly eat a bowl of ramen

In the scene where Gun is reading a novel about a ramen sensei and his student, ITAMI Juzo entertains the idea that food, an inanimate object can be personified into having emotions and needing special treatment.  As the scene unravels, the sensei—who has been studying ramen for 40 years—enlightens the student that in order to fully enjoy the bowl of ramen, special instructions have to be followed. Here, food is actually eaten, but the oddity here is the way the ramen has to be eaten that is curious.  The sensei personifies the ramen mentioning how it needs to be handled with delicate care and affection.  This again takes food to the extreme because food, an object merely of consumption is portrayed as an object of great significance.


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