Food, People and Society

The movie Tampopo is directed by Juzo Itami in 1985, and the episodes of the movie are about food. In the movie, food means not only the substance that humans eat in order to support life, but also something that connects people with people, and people with societies. Especially, ramen, which is one of the most famous food of Japan, is the main food of the movie Tampopo. At the beginning of the episode, a young man learns how to eat ramen properly from his ramen teacher. They consider every detailed movement as important tips of manners to eat ramen, and that is not to show off that they have such a great table manner to other people; it is for having ramen with full respect and for enjoying it sincerely. By his teacher, the young man is instructed not only the table manner, but also the pleasure of enjoying ramen. I think the reason why ramen is set as a main food of the movie is because it represents Japan, and the characters of the movie are all involved in ramen, which also means people’s efforts to preserve Japanese food culture in the era of westernization in 1980‘s.

Food also plays an important role in the episode of a woman named Tampopo. She is a widow who runs a ramen restaurant. One day, she meets a man named Goro and asks him to make her as his apprentice. They put efforts to improve Tampopo’s skill to make perfect ramen and make her restaurant a better place, and I also interpret it as an effort of Japanese people in order to keep Japanese traditional culture. Also, Tampopo,Goro and people around them are connected together with ramen, and I think it shows that how people can fall in love with food that please their appetite and make them involved in human relationship with the fact that they are having same food together.

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Among all the great scenes, I chose the scene (30:15) from the episode about spaghetti because I think this scene shows the attitudes of Japanese people towards western culture. In that period, Japan was experiencing westernization and modernization. Western influence was spread to all Japanese society and also the food culture of western countries affected Japanese food industry. In the episode of spaghetti, there is a club that teaches how to eat spaghetti with western table manner with forks and knives. The members of the club are mostly young women, who want to encourage themselves to be westernized. However, after they see the white man makes noise and slurps his spaghetti, they start to eat as they want and forget about the table manner that they have learned so far. In this scene, I realize that the most important attitude towards food is about how to enjoy it. Also, people in the room become all together with the food, and I think that might be the lesson of the movie; food is a part of culture, and when people truly love it and enjoy it, it can be a means of communication, and plays an important role in human relationship and society.

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