Tag Archives: Itami

Tampopo – Every Last Drop

1) As her friends in this scene said, Tampopo "has won." Every last drop acts as a sign that the ramen is perfect and deeply appreciated as food and an art form. Thus, in this picture, her friends say Tampopo “has won.”

1) As her friends in this scene said, Tampopo “has won.”
Every last drop acts as a sign that the ramen is perfect and deeply
appreciated as food and an art form. Thus, in this picture, her friends say Tampopo
“has won.”

Gonzalo Gutierrez

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.

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Tampopo: The Individual’s Search for Self-Identification

Juzo Itami’s comedy film, Tampopo, portrays the story of a modest noodle cook who aspires to master the perfect recipe for making ramen noodles. After her husband’s death, the relentless widow, Tampopo (Itami’s funny sensibility at work), strives to support her son and herself by keeping her noodle house running. Tampopo soon discovers that this task is anything but simple when Goro and Gun, noodle connoisseurs and truck drivers, wander into her shop and sit down to try a bowl of ramen. Goro, who loves noodles so much that he can discern whether a bowl of ramen is good or not by just the sight of it, converses with another customer by swapping opinions about Tampopo’s noodles like chef judges would.

Tampopo is met with disdain when the two describe her ramen as “sincere”, insinuating that her noodles aren’t great. Goro and Gun agree to teach her how to stir up the perfect recipe for a bowl of noodles, and the widow’s wild ride to learning the art of cooking and serving the best ramen begins. Itami perfectly arranges the film with a collection of indelible moments that all come together as one.

Itami’s camera floats to a scene in which Goro and Gun are sitting before their breakfast meal: a bowl of ramen prepared by Tampopo. Instead of quietly enjoying their meals, the two suddenly become food critics. The truckers reluctantly, but in all honesty, say that the noodles “lack profundity”, that “they’ve got sincerity- but they lack guts”. These philosophical sentiments delivered by the connoisseurs demand a special respect for the art of ramen. By astounding the widow with their frankness and eccentric sense of humor, Goro and Gun most effectively break through the wall to Tampopo and her quest to find the perfect recipe for making noodles. In a later sequence when Tampopo is on the verge of a noodle breakthrough, Goro critiques Tampopo’s noodles again, stating that “they’re beginning to have substance, but they still lack depth.” It is through this education of ramen, an identifiably Japanese dish, that Tammpopo begins her skillful training and strength building. The scene reveals the most engaging thing about Tampopo: the film portrays a vision of Japanese culture where the social position of the individual is subordinate to the ethical unity of a stable society. Tampopo’s search to find the perfect recipe for ramen may represent an individual’s social role in a consumerist era.

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Philosophical sentiments delivered by the connoisseurs

The astonishing philosophical verdicts delivered as Tampopo’s noodles slowly improve continue to resonate with me. I love the cold yet candid immensity of the words, and how confounded Tampopo is when she hears those words come out of Goro’s mouth. It is a scene that repeats itself in my head whenever I pull up a stool at a ramen house, or even when I’m simply microwaving a Cup of Noodles or Top Ramen at home. Itami’s Japanese film comically tells the story of the Japanese culture’s tradition to contribute something that is valuable to the citizens of Japan as a whole.

Food and Sex and Fun

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I was really intending to upload what comes after this, but I wasn’t brave enough. Here an extravagant meal is being wheeled into a western styled hotel room.

In this scene, reproduction and food as a form of sustenance are choicely placed in juxtaposition; both as factors of primary survival instincts of the human race…But let’s be real, that’s not why this scene caught every one’s attention in class.

We could definitely go down the classical studies route, where deities of love, lust, fortune, and beauty are largely goddesses in every branch of mythology, but I am no expert, so let’s not. Regardless, Itami paints a clear picture that eating shouldn’t be a serious affair. There was a ton of biting and licking involved in the scene, and not all of them are for food. But the subtle reference to similar human gestures for both activities probably isn’t an accident. He emphasizes that eating should be an interactive experience; pointing out the fact that good food should stimulate all of the senses. The presentation, smell, and taste should all be carefully considered for a well put together meal, most definitely for western cuisines, but even more so for good ol’ Ramen. Remember the old man stroking his three pieces of pork at the beginning of the film? Well who knows what interesting things are going on in his mind then? Itami also restates the social aspect of food eating, and of the intimacy prevalent between people who share a meal together, both among families, and apparently lovers too. In regards of filming techniques, the exaggerated camera close-ups are really as intimate as it gets. Nothing like great food to bring people together right?

Although the movie embodies the general theme of promoting appreciation of “traditional comfort food” as opposed to blindly following the fad, it is by no means bashing on western culture or western food. Itami selectively appropriates scenes of modernity, obviously celebrating the young entrepreneurial spirits of post-war Japan, while highlighting that western cuisine (and room service for that matter), is still largely endorsed by progressive yuppies as opposed to older nostalgic folks. In effect he is also depicting the animal like craze behind globalization in Japan, and the untamed nature of modernization and technological advancements driven by a new generation. Which isn’t all that bad, I mean look at how much fun the two of them are having. But of course everything is better in moderation (some parts were going a bit too far in my opinion).

A genuine playfulness carries itself throughout the entire film, and this scene in particular, but if I’d say if there is anything we can be positively sure of, it is that there is nothing more effective in capturing the attention of the audience during a two-hour movie than with a sex scene, and Itami sure knows that well.

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Lastly I leave you with a question to ponder; what the heck is going on here? Is this actually something people do for fun? By the way, where did the word “food orgasm” even come from?

 

Tampopo: represents more than just a person

Tampopo is a film directed by Japanese director Itami Juzo and showed in theater in 1985. The film screened a story of a widow, who solely runs a leave over ramen restaurant from her husband, overcomes several difficulties and finally achieved her goal at the end. Generally, this film follows a common procedure of storyline which the protagonist, Tampopo, at the beginning, finds herself in a predicament situation and as a sense of revolt develops in her mind, she begins pursuing for her dream and a new form of life, then at the end she accomplishes her dream and ushers in her new life. Although there is no highlight in general storyline, director Itami shows several unique ways of storytelling to his audiences to draw their attentions as well as to express his believes about food and his country at that time.

Egg passing

Egg passing

For example, most of audiences would find this scene has no obvious relation to the main story, and conclude it as an odd sex scene. However, ponder the role position in this film, it somehow seems the females are in position of representing learners, pillars of family and further more may represent Japan itself at that time, as the males are representing mentors, pillars of society and Western cultures. In this scene, the female is urgently longing for the egg, and they have passed back and forth many times to each other’s mouth until the lady broke the yolk, then she swallows the juice. The implied meaning of this scene can be Japan, as in its late postwar period, is in state of well- absorption of western culture and creating its own. Many scenes have demonstrated this idea very straightforward. Examples are like, in a scene where a group of females are learning how to eat spaghetti, likewise in the previous scene where the young man is pretty knowledgeable about French food.

The foreigner

The foreigner that eats
spagetti out loud

In addition, director Itami specially contrast appropriate way of eating ramen with eating spaghetti. He put this ironic foreigner in this scene to illuminate his believe of modern Japanese culture as it has transformed through mixture of original Japanese culture and western culture, and became a unique one.

Dying woman cooked the last meal for her family

Dying woman cooked the last meal for her family

There is also an obscure idea that director Itami integrate in this film. He portrays women in the film as they are pillars of their family. This image is clearly shown in characters like Tampopo, the choked old man’s daughter and the dying woman. This is a medium shot so it shows much better setting overall than a close- up setting. In here, director put the dying woman in the middle and makers her whole family centralize at her, which gives a strong visual perception to the audiences. It’s a very unacceptable idea to traditional Japanese culture that woman can be in greater position than man in any family. But in this scene, director deliberately illustrates the dying woman’s unshakable position in her family through the dinner; and when she dies, it seems the whole family is falling apart. This can be the most profound shot in the film.

Recognition, joy, satisfaction, blessing and respect

Recognition, joy, satisfaction, blessing and respect

Overall, director Itami uses food as keystone to link each scene and his perspectives throughout the film. Because of this, the film doesn’t feel like broken in parts even though some scenes have no direct connections to the main story. Moreover, Tampopo, by director’s intention, becomes no more than just a character representing a role in the film, the character has also transformed into a symbol of evolution, and good wish by the director to this newborn Japanese culture. At the end where all five of them give positive response toward Tampopo’s ramen can be a good illustration of that.

The Ramen Master

Tampopo Ramen Master

The young man observes the ramen master meticulously take his first bite of pork.

Itami Jūzō’s film Tampopo (1985) explores the struggle of a single mother, Tampopo, to improve her Tokyo ramen shop and beat out the competition. Two truck drivers approach her ramen shop, and (after a western style showdown) the two strangers eventually become Tampopo’s ramen-teachers. Within Tampopo’s story to become a master in making ramen, Itami includes vignettes that showcase the different relationships between Japanese people and food. A few relationships Itami illustrates are food as a source of pleasure, food as the foundation of a community, and food as a symbol of status in the business culture in Japan.

The most important scene in the film is the scene of a ramen master teaching a young man how to properly eat ramen. The importance of this scene is mostly due to the fact that it is the first scene in the film depicting a relationship between characters and food. It also is significant because Itami reveals the relationship between Japanese tradition and modernity in society. The mise-en-scene illustrates this contrast between tradition and modernity. The ramen master’s actions are very stoical and he dresses in traditional Japanese attire. Contrastingly, the young man has a modern haircut and is wearing a “western” style shirt. His actions are more animated and slightly boorish. Another aspect of the mise-en-scene is the background: the customers vary in age and their varying clothing suggests different lifestyles. The customers are an important part of the mise-en-scene because throughout the film, Itami depicts ramen as a food that brings many different people together—representing the theme of community and relationships. The camera angles are also as significant as the mise-en-scene. The scene begins with an extreme long shot of Tokyo, switches to close-ups of the two men eating ramen and includes close up shots of the ramen itself. The camera angle pans into the close up of the ramen, creating dramatization of the food—making the ramen seem even more distinguished.

Classical music begins to play as the master teaches the young man how to eat ramen. This is quite comical, since ramen is known to be a cheap common dish equivalent to fast food. Itami’s concept of depicting ramen as a highly detailed dish that requires meticulous and strategic eating habits, illustrates the merging of tradition and modernity. Traditionally ramen was a comfort food; however, in modern society ramen has more popularity and prominence. In history, specifically in the Meiji restoration, Japanese associated French cuisine as a symbol of high status and prestige. In a later scene in Tampopo, there is a business meeting that includes French cuisine reestablishing the high-society connotation of French cuisine in Japan. Through the lesson on ramen etiquette, Itami portrays ramen at an equal level to French cuisine.

In the ramen master’s scene, Itami establishes ramen as a delicacy that requires appreciation. This is supported by Tampopo going through so much training to rebuild her ramen shop and find the best recipe for her signature ramen menu. Therefore, this scene is the foundation of Tampopo’s journey.

Ramen is Art

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Tampopo, without a doubt, was a very interesting film to me because it takes on a different take of something that was so seemingly simple and common to me, ramen, to a work of art – to a masterpiece.

This specific screenshot is very significant to the rest of the movie because in this part, Tampopo, after continuous practice and training, has finally prepared the “perfect” ramen in just 3 minutes. This scene is a medium and an establishing shot because it shows the setting which is the kitchen and shows the body language of Goro and Tampopo. Goro is looking at the stopwatch and Tampopo is raising both of her hands to signal that she has placed the bowl of ramen down and that she is done. I believe that this establishes one of Juzo Itami’s biggest theme in this film and that is of the following: food is hard work, food is art. Starting from the beginning of the film where a young man and an older man eats ramen together and the older man begins to teach proper and right ways of enjoying and eating ramen to the young man till this very scene, which is closer to the end, where Tampopo finally masters making ramen, it is evident that Itami is trying to portray the idea that food is indeed hard work in Japan. Itami is saying that a concept can be mastered, under practice and determination.

Ramen, to many – especially in the United States, may just see ramen as another comfort food, something that they can easily order and pick up at their nearest ramen shop on a cold Winter day. But this movie says so much more about it and this scene ties it all up. Ramen is not just comfort food for $8.99, it is art and it is something that takes many practices to master. Prior to this scene, Tampopo’s ramen shop was not a hit and barely anyone came. Thus, Tampopo had to learn all the proper ways to make the best tasting ramen and it took blood, sweat, and discipline to get her where she is in this scene. There are certain techniques to boil the noodles, to cut the meat, and etc.  Tampopo actually even had a nightmare one night about her ramen shop burning down because she left the water for the noodles on too long and made her noodles very soft, too soft. In addition, how ramen is also plated is also another technique she had to learn – the meat had to be in a certain spot. 

I think this scene is trying to say that ramen should be appreciated more because it takes very hard work to make it all happen. This scene also shows food’s role in Japanese culture and how it takes a lot of time – just like sushi; their food is just not a bunch of things together, it actually has technique.

Itami portrays ramen in a way that it should be praised. This movie has definitely made me appreciate Japanese food and culture more and that it is definitely art. Itami represents that culture is closely related to food and that food can say a lot about a culture and its traditions and Itamin’s Tampopo is a great film to inspire that. 

Cultural and Temporal Tensions in Juzo Itami’s Tampopo

Tampopo welcomes her friends into her newly renovated noodle shop.

Tampopo greets her friends while working in her new kitchen.

In Tampopo, Juzo Itami explores the unusual and often unexpected tensions that beset our daily lives. This particular scene, in which Tampopo welcomes her friends into her newly renovated ramen shop, is the movie’s most significant as it provides insight into Tampopo’s underlying cultural context. Tampopo can be viewed as Itami’s response to the modern ideals originating in Japan’s late 1860 Meiji period that persist even today. While this scene does provide a sense of narrative closure and finality, its major significance arises from its ability to show the audience Itami’s challenging stance against the notion of western culinary superiority. In this scene, Itami uses food to examine the strong cultural strains that link tradition and modernity. Understanding Itami’s stylistic choices leads to a greater understanding of the culinary occidentalism present throughout Tampopo.

The most striking aspect of the scene lies in Itami’s use of lighting and color; the airy white room serves as a striking contrast to the predominately dusky and cluttered color palette common throughout the film. The unusual foreignness of the renovated shop is emphasized as Tampopo’s friends slowly survey the room in a state of mild bewilderment. Even Tampopo’s facial expression and the slightly elevated camera angle convey a sense of openness and warmth not readily found in the rest of the movie. The camera drifts slowly sideways as if to reiterate the peaceful spaciousness evoked by the room. The neatly segmented cookware arrangement further enhances the cleanly, orderly aesthetic. All these elements cohesively fuse to create a perception of sophistication and modernity. Interestingly enough, the interior remains comfortable and welcoming, implying that cultural exclusivity is not inherent to modernity.

Tampopo’s noodle shop is the ideal location to explore cultural and temporal tensions because it possesses both traditional and modern characteristics. It is important to note that the shop’s aesthetic is based heavily in post-Meiji era notions of European modernity. The white tiling and steel furnishings are very uncharacteristic of traditional Japanese interiors; even Tampopo’s outfit, modeled after the classic European toque and apron, is westernized. She is adorned in what Goro had previously compared to the garb of a “film star in a French movie. This alludes to the enduring and often damaging notion that European foods best exemplify high culture, fashion, and modern tastes. Itami challenges this idea through culinary role reversals, subversions, and juxtapositions. The sharp contrasts between the modern furnishings and the traditional foods elicit a sense of cultural dissonance. While the dissension is never truly resolved, it ultimately elevates viewer appreciation of the ramen. In the scene, the westernized interior is much less substantive than the actual Japanese ramen, further highlighting the food’s primacy. As Tampopo triumphantly begins cooking, the western interior fades into the background and exists solely as a platform for the creation of the Japanese cuisine. By shifting viewer focus toward the ramen, Itami demonstrates the cultural richness of Japanese cooking, suggesting that it deserves just as much recognition as its western counterpart.