United By Food

In Itami Jūzo’s Tampopo, Japanese culinary arts are portrayed as an extremely important factor of everyday culture and business which affects people of all ages from the young to the elderly. The film parodies the idea that all dishes including traditional common dishes such as ramen play a key role in the success of the Japanese economy. Although globalization is demonstrated to be occurring, the importance of the traditional culture remains strong in Japan. As demonstrated throughout the movie, businessmen and commoners alike all vehemently attempt to find or consume the best tasting food available. This urge hence leads to a greater consumption of food which in return is responsible for the growth of the economy of Japan who is constantly attempting to expand through the use of food.

mother and child

The mother caresses her child as he contently enjoys his mother’s milk and bond together as one.

       The final scene of Tampopo involves a mother nursing her infant on a bright day in the park accompanied by the sounds of a carnival in the background. The woman and her nursing child are shown siting on a bench at an eye-level medium shot which slowly transitions into an eye-level close up shot of the infant contently nursing from the mother.

         The mother is a symbol of the people who consume food and aids in the maintenance of the Japanese economy. Based on how the mother is dressed in this scene, it is difficult to determine whether her diet consumes of only traditional foods such as ramen or a mixture of traditional along with other types of cuisines. But, it does not matter what she consumes because she must eat in order to produce milk for the child. This discrepancy in her eating emphasizes the unity found in Japanese food despite the globalization taking place. Both foods such as ramen and French foods help fuel important people much like the businessmen are powered by French cuisine and Tampopo makes a living selling ramen.

Image

(Left) The gentleman reveals his knowledge of French cuisine by requesting specific French drinks, (Right) Tampopo found in her new restaurant made possible by her success as a ramen chef as revealed through her attire.

           The child nursing is a symbol of the Japanese culture which thrives on food. As mentioned before, the milk produced by mother will not differ depending on what she eats much like the economy will not differ if traditional food is sold alongside other cuisines. In the film, the more aristocratic people cater to exotic cuisine while the commoners are content with ramen hence revealing a sense a unity among each other by food that is demonstrated though the unity formed by the dependence of the child for the mother’s milk.

         The music in the background evokes a sense of peace which is seen after the child receives what he wants. The happiness of the child combined with the joyful tone of the music reveal the conclusion that there will continue to be positive growth so long as the food needs of all are met. Throughout the film, different characters whether they remained alive or dead in some cases, retained a positive attitude at the end due to eating what they enjoyed hence making this end scene a significant image that emphasizes the purpose of the film.

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