Section 1C, TA: Sun
In Juzo Itami’s 1985 “noodle western” Tampopo, many scenes conjure up images and symbols of the importance and intricacies of the traditional ramen dish. However, the scene that I personally believe is the most important is the scene that spans from the ritualistic test of Tampopo’s ramen being tasted and eaten by her friends to the death of the white-dressed fancy gangster. The interesting and fascinating message behind this scene signifies the triumph of traditional ramen over the dying of exclusive western food that the gangster symbolized.
The scenes themselves are presented and orchestrated in a deliberate manner to symbolize this victory the scene is trying to convey. Firstly, the scene begins with Tampopo’s struggle to satisfy the delicate, precise, and artistic ways of perfecting what seems to be the every-day man’s ramen. The entire film’s premise seems to counteract the misconception or otherwise unknown knowledge of what it takes to make “the common people’s” traditional ramen. Popularly known as being a populist and comforting food, ramen is widely believed to be a mundane dish that is not of the caliber of western delicacies or highly exclusive Japanese cuisine. However, this is hardly the case as the film sets out to prove that traditional ramen can be just as, if not more of an art form in its preparation, appreciation, and cultural value and significance to the Japanese population than the highly exclusive Western food that appears in the film represented as the white-dressed gangster and the French restaurant. From the scene onwards, one can see the manner in which all of the methods Tampopo employs to serve and prepare the ramen to the way it is eaten and appreciated by her friends (customers) that ramen is considered a customary practice in Japan that takes years of dedication and effort to perfect. Therefore, traditional food cannot be dismissed from any culture meaning that it is equal in value to any other form of exclusive and expensive cuisine the world has to offer. In other words, it can symbolize Japan’s contribution as an equal competitor to global cuisine as an art form that stems from its traditional background to represent their country’s appreciation and pride for what they have done to retain customary and mundane food. Additionally, the scene progresses to the destruction of Tampopo’s old ramen stand to a newly renovated and decorated restaurant she and her friends manage to make, shedding light to support the claim that Japanese ramen is meant to be a delicacy equal to French cuisine by being similarly prepared by a properly uniformed chef and a well- prepared kitchen, atmosphere, and environment.
Finally, the white-dressed gangster’s death in some sense represents the triumph of ramen over western delicacies as the food of choice and symbol of Japanese culture and people as well as the acceptance and embrace of ramen as true Japanese comfort/populist food over pretentious Western food. It can possibly be interpreted that ramen could have shot the gangster, otherwise represented as Western food, to symbolize this victory. Hence, to me this scene specifically and intricately pinpoints the film’s message in one conclusive timeframe that traditional food can have the pliability to be served as a delicacy and be appreciated just as much.