Tampopo: Putting the “Men” in Ramen

Directed in 1985 by Juzo Itami, Tampopo tells the comedic story of how one man’s influence changed one woman’s life. The film follows the progression and maturation of the protagonist Tampopo as she transforms her rundown ramen house flooded with thugs into a booming business with respectable customers. The role of the man is highly accentuated as Tampopo seeks out male assistance as she progresses through her journey. The central male in the film, Goro, is introduced under western light, where he enters the ramen house in a manner analogous to a cowboy entering a bar. He then proceeds to defend Tampopo, despite being a stranger, from boisterous drunks. From this moment forward, she has become infatuated and obsessed with the idea of learning from Goro the way of ramen.

           The film Tampopo stresses the importance of the male role, approaching the role of a sensei, in being a foodie. As soon as the film opens, the audience is greeted by the man in the white suit acknowledging the audience’s presence at a movie, and he proceeds to ask them what they are eating. This lack of care for the film shows an importance of food such that the characters in the film itself are drawn and mesmerized by what the audience eats throughout the duration of the film.

So...what are you eating?

His interest in food is further expanded upon when the scene shifts to Gun, Goro’s partner, reading a book on the ritualistic aspect of eating ramen. The master in the novel acts as a monk training his student in the proper manner to eat ramen. Just like in Buddhism, the master partakes in each ritual three times before moving on to the next. This spiritual aspect regarding the ramen transcends the fact that it is merely just a meal and places it as something that should be worshipped and appreciated.

Food is like a deity. Treat it like one.

            Upon meeting Goro and standing up against the drunks, Tampopo begs Goro to train her in the art of ramen making. This then introduces Tampopo into the world of ramen run by males. Tampopo is the underdog in ramen business, and she must stand up to the competition. Goro takes Tampopo to various male owned restaurants showing her their varying styles of cooking and business. Through observation, Tampopo was able to absorb the different styles to augment her own style of cooking. This mimicry of the male is not only seen through Tampopo, but in other instances as well. In one instance, a prestigious woman is teaching a class of women on the difference in spaghetti and how to eat with etiquette. A white, male onlooker attempts to mimic the head women, but he succumbs to his own mannerisms. The female students then proceed to mimic the man while ignoring their teacher.

            Under the theme of male guidance, Tampopo and Goro seek out other males to aid in Tampopo’s journey. They serve as masters and teachers to her as she mimics their style and uses it to refine her own.

Couldn't have done it without you guys...

As the movie closes, we see Tampopo’s business transform right before her eyes into that dream ramen house that she has always wanted. With the help of various men, Tampopo was able to rise to success, joining the same ranks as the male shop owners around her.

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