The Importance of Food Simplicity in Japan

The film “Tampopo” is a Japanese comedy directed by Juzo Itami and its story is mostly about a redevelopment of the ramen restaurant owned by Tampopo. During this film, there are many scenes that are not directly related to Tampopo and her restaurant but related to a food culture in Japan. In the film, director tells us how ridiculous to pretend like you are a foodie and knowledgeable through these scenes unrelated to the main story.

 

In the scene of six salesmen at the French restaurant, the waiter has no expression on his face in whole time but at the end of the scene he seems like smiling ironically at wannabe foodies. The scene begins with an establishing shot of the tall building and this shot is taken diagonally and seems very sophisticated and unreachable, and represents luxury.

The building seems luxury and sofisticated

Six salesmen are having a business lunch together at the French restaurant in this building. The menu of the restaurant was written in French and even though there are some descriptions in Japanese, it should be difficult for someone if he does not have any French food knowledge. However, the three old men pretend like they can understand the menu but never start ordering and wait until someone to order. Once one guy ordered, everyone followed his order except one youngest associate. The young associate is the only one in this party who know what he is really talking about at the French restaurant. According to the Japanese culture, he was the powerless guy in the party at the beginning of the scene due to his age, but after he started ordering his food, he became the most powerful person because he was a foodie and knew French food more than other older guys.

 
Young associate looking comfortable

We can see the facial expression of the young associate becomes more and more comfortable through the close-up shot of his face when he is ordering.

Itami tells us how ridiculous those guys faking that they are a foodie in this scene through the ironic facial expression of the waiter at the end of the scene.

 

In the scene of a family gathering because of their mother’s dying, Itami tells us how important simplicity of food is and there is no need of hierarchy or status of food. In this scene, father tells dying mother to cook for her family to make her live longer and she really goes to the kitchen and cooks. The food she cooks is fried rice which is known as a simple and easy dish in Japan. Compared to French food in other scene, fried rice is not food that foodies want, not sophisticated and not luxury but her family eat it with saying that it is really good. Even though the food is simple, people who eat it is happy and who cooked it is also happy.

Dying mother smiling

Through the close-up shot of her face slightly smiling, we can see how dying mother feels happy when she hears her family saying that the dish she cooked is really good. Itami tells us a message here that we do not necessarily have to be a foodie because simple food is great as well as luxury food.

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