Screen Shot: The apprentice and The perfect housewife

Itami Juzou’s ”Tampopo” has various scenes within the main scenario of Tampopo working on her restaurant with Goro.  It first might be hard to tell which scene is the most important in the movie because there are many varieties of scenes, each with their own importance that Itami included for the sake of symbolizing Japan and its current events.

For me, this scene is where Tampopo asks Goro to make her his apprentice is the most important for various reasons such as gender neutralizing, main plot, and showing how ramen is a big deal. Despite how it’s status was falling during the time.

I would also like to note that Tampopo says she would like to be Goros “apprentice” or 弟子 (deshi).  The official translation in the movie says that she would like Goro to teach her instead, which I found there was an important aspect lost within the language barrier. It’s very rare to find a woman who is willing to work as an apprentice since it’s the norm for a woman to be a housewife. Tampopo herself says “Meeting you two made me want to make the ramen shop serious (direct translation)”.

This does not mean she was taking her husband’s job as a joke, but she wanted to turn it into a success and with high quality and standards. While doing this, Itami also pushes the complexity of ramen, to say it is not just a low level street food.  Usually apprenticeship is common in high quality, pure foods like sushi or even tofu. Sword making, dying, kimono making, tea, and pottery can also be put at the same level in terms of respected jobs where there are experts called “職人(shokunin)”. Itami was giving the work of making ramen a high status where there is an expert, which also says that these skills cannot be obtained without practice and diligence. It’s interesting also when Goro checks Tampopo for the first time and he mentions all these details like looking at the customers and checking their actions (seeing the soup is hot, their condition at the time, hunger). These details he mentions at the time can help the watchers notice that even ramen is complex or profound. (? -> 奥が深い)

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Whilst all this serious business and asking for apprenticeship to Goro, Tampopo also shows a womanly side by saying that she will have her pickles ready for them when ever they desire. Shows how much of a perfect housewife she is doesn’t it? It’s customary in Japan, in a societal sense, where woman should have food warm and ready for their husband when they come home. In a sense it becomes a man’s status/dream to have a loving wife with food and bath ready after a day’s hard work, though this is very stereotypical. But this scene shows all in once, the womanly housewife, a serious woman willing to become an apprentice for ramen (ramen is also pretty masculine),  a man that succumbs to the desire of warm good food made by a woman(Can also consider the aspect of “taste of mother “or お袋の味), while also raising the status of ramen and showing it’s complexity.

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