The plot of Tampopo revolves around characters that have almost no relation to each other as the protagonist’s journey of becoming a renowned ramen chef remains the only true linear storyline. An interesting side-story follows an unknown man running, taking the viewer with him away from the main storyline.
The side-plot (1:28:34-1:32:30) begins with a cut from another scene completely inconsistent in relation to the overall plotline to the unknown man running to somewhere with a purpose. The audience is unaware of his reason for running with obvious signs of desperation and exhaustion. Another seemingly important piece to the shot is the “running man’s” path being in line with a train. As he runs, the train passes him by in the direction that he is going. In a sense, it is getting to where he is going before he can, while once he reaches his destination it is leaving in the opposite direction.
He gets to his apartment, enters, and immediately heads to his terminally ill wife lying down on the floor as his children and her physician accompanied by a nurse fill the rest of the room, creating a small, intimate atmosphere. The man cannot deal with letting his wife succumb to death, so forces her to make food for him and the children. The wife responds to this in remarkable fashion, getting up from the floor and immediately cutting vegetables to make a sort of fried rice dish even in her sickly state.
Her motor skills seem to be unaffected as shots of her cooking showcase her abilities and take attention away from her terminally ill state. This could be interpreted as a scene of miraculous conventions as the wife sets out to cook a meal even if it may be her last, but can also be interpreted as a sexist remark on households where the housewife’s her dying act is to provide a dinner for her family. She does end up finishing the dish in a flash as the sound of the train that runs close to their residence distracts the husband and we cut to a view of the train close enough to see the passengers. The inexorable train seems to mirror the fate of the wife. Its loud horns and blaring lights keep the scene from becoming calm, increasing the tension in unyielding degrees. The wife manages to serve her family a delectable meal, carefully spooning the rice into the bowls of her hungry children.