The Meaning of Food Expressed In Tampopo

Tampopo, which is directed by Itami Jūzō, is a western style movie, is about different kinds of food in Japanese society. In the opening scene, there is a gentleman dressed in a white suit with a beautiful lady in the cinema. His men bring a small table with some western food such as salad, sausages and champagne. However, he is interrupted by someone eating chips with noise, and that noise annoyed him. Then the scene changes and we can see an old ramen expert teaches his student how to appreciate the ramen with feelings. First, we should observe the ramen and feel its smell; we can see the light shining on the surface of the ramen. Then we should look at the pork, and apologize to it because we are going to eat the ramen first. It’s very interesting by watching how the old master demonstrate the rules of how to eat ramen, and we can also get a lot of information through this part and know more about the manners of eating ramen.
Tampopo, a single parent who is running a falling noodle restaurant named “Lai Lai”, asks Goro to be her teacher in order to be a professional noodle cook. On her way to become a successful ramen cook, there are a lot of difficulties that she needs to face, but performed in a humorous way. Goro, a truck driver, is an expert of ramen. He is a good teacher and he can point out Tampopo’s mistakes of running her restaurant. At the beginning of his lesson, he let Gun act as a new customer and asked Tampopo to observe his reactions in small details. For example, when Gun walks in, Tampopo should look at him and think about what kind of customer he is. She should observe if he is in a hungry, or if he is a new customer. If Gun can sip the soup, it means that the water is not hot enough. In fact, the way of teaching is not only by simply telling how to do it, but also by observing small details. On Tampopo’s way to be a good ramen cook, she learned more than she had expected before and has a more positive life.
In another scene, a Japanese lady is teaching her girls the manners of eating spaghetti. She showed the girls how to eat spaghetti without making noise. At first, the girls followed what she said about eating spaghetti and try not to make any noise. Meanwhile, there is a man eating noodle loudly. And all the girls could not stand any more, and eat their noodles with noise just as the man sitting in the dining hall eating. In fact, in Japanese society, eating noodles with noise is to show respects to the noodles and the cook.
Doubtless, food is the theme of Tampopo and there are deep meanings expressed by food in each scene. It’s not just about the tastes of food, but about how to appreciate the food we get and pursue our happiness when eating or making food.


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