Tampopo: the importance of being patient

Before going onto the main story of Tampopo, Itami Juzo includes a scene where an old man, who has studied ramen for 40 years, tries to show a younger man the “right way” to eat ramen. This scene may be the most significant scene in the film Tampopo, for it reveals the main idea of the movie: you must take your time with food. This scene also suggests that all foods, even comfort food like ramen, are worthy of that respect and patience.

In the scene, the old sensei is very patient and goes through a slow and elaborate process to savor his meal. The camerawork is interesting and works with the main idea. For example, when the food is served, we see both characters in the frame, and it is easier to recognize the clear contrast between their attitudes towards the food. The younger man picks up his bowl right away, whereas the older man on the right patiently waits. The younger man is excited and ready to eat, while the old master keeps a solemn face without any movement. This contrast makes the viewers become curious as to what the older man is waiting for and thus become compelled to pay more attention to his words. Also, the camera does close-ups of not only the characters, but also the bowl of ramen. As the camera zooms up on a bowl of ramen from a bird’s eye view, it is as if we are looking through the characters’ eyes. Listening to the old master’s voice in the background, the viewers are put in the younger man’s position, a student who is eagerly listening to his sensei’s words. From the very beginning of the movie, this scene forces us to recognize the importance of having patience, as we are forced to listen to the master’s words. At the end of the scene, the old man finally picks up a slice of pork and puts it in his mouth, and his solemn face slowly lights up and he smiles. The camera moves from showing both characters to just showing the old man’s face, and focuses on his reaction. As the background fades out, it seems that the taste of pork placed the old master in his own world of joy. The ramen master’s patience paid off, and his happiness is apparently much greater than that of the younger man.

스크린샷 2013-10-14 오전 12.56.00

The master finally smiles after tasting a slice of pork in his ramen.

The theme of patience is present throughout the movie Tampopo. For instance, in the French restaurant scene, the last guy, who overcame his low social status with his knowledge of French cuisine, takes a long time to order his food, asking questions about how it is made and who is in charge of making it, and so on. Tampopo’s quest of perfecting her ramen recipe takes a long time involving meeting different people, and visiting many restaurants with great patience. She struggles to figure out ways to perfect each steps of making ramen, such as cooking noodles and preparing soup, rather than working on them altogether. The scene with a customer choking on his noodles also highlights the importance of waiting and savoring food. The idea of taking time to prepare and eat food is apparently shown and stressed throughout the whole movie, though it is most evident in the first scene with the ramen master and his student.

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