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is a 1985 Japanese
Cinema of Japan
The has a history that spans more than 100 years. Japan has one of the oldest and largest film industries in the world – as of 2009 the fourth largest by number of feature films produced. Movies have been produced in Japan since 1897, when the first foreign cameramen arrived...

 comedy film
Comedy film
Comedy film is a genre of film in which the main emphasis is on humour. They are designed to elicit laughter from the audience. Comedies are mostly light-hearted dramas and are made to amuse and entertain the audiences...

 by director
Film director
A film director is a person who directs the actors and film crew in filmmaking. They control a film's artistic and dramatic nathan roach, while guiding the technical crew and actors.-Responsibilities:...

 Juzo Itami
Juzo Itami
, born , was an actor and a popular modern Japanese film director. Many critics came to regard him as Japan's greatest director since Akira Kurosawa. His 10 movies, all of which he wrote himself, are comic satires on elements of Japanese culture....

, starring Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto
Nobuko Miyamoto
is a Japanese actress. She was born in Otaru, Hokkaidō, and raised in Nagoya. She was married to director Jūzō Itami from 1969 until his death in 1997, and regularly starred in his films....

 and Ken Watanabe. The publicity for the film calls it the first ramen western, a play on the term Spaghetti Western
Spaghetti Western
Spaghetti Western, also known as Italo-Western, is a nickname for a broad sub-genre of Western films that emerged in the mid-1960s in the wake of Sergio Leone's unique and much copied film-making style and international box-office success, so named by American critics because most were produced and...

 (films about the American West made by Italian production studios).

Plot summary

Tampopo begins when a pair of truck drivers, an experienced one named Goro and a young sidekick named Gun (played by Tsutomu Yamazaki and Ken Watanabe
Ken Watanabe
is a Japanese stage, film, and television actor. To English-speaking audiences he is known for playing tragic hero characters, such as General Tadamichi Kuribayashi in Letters from Iwo Jima and Lord Katsumoto Moritsugu in The Last Samurai, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best...

 respectively), happen onto a decrepit roadside fast food stop selling ramen
is a Japanese noodle dish. It consists of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat- or fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as , , kamaboko, green onions, and occasionally corn...

 (noodles). The business is not doing too well, and after getting involved in a fight, the heroes decide to help the widowed owner, Tampopo ("Dandelion", played by Nobuko Miyamoto
Nobuko Miyamoto
is a Japanese actress. She was born in Otaru, Hokkaidō, and raised in Nagoya. She was married to director Jūzō Itami from 1969 until his death in 1997, and regularly starred in his films....

), turn her establishment into a paragon of the "art of noodle soup making".

The main narrative is interspersed with stories involving consumables on several levels. The primary subplot involves a white-suited yakuza
, also known as , are members of traditional organized crime syndicates in Japan. The Japanese police, and media by request of the police, call them bōryokudan , literally "violence group", while the yakuza call themselves "ninkyō dantai" , "chivalrous organizations". The yakuza are notoriously...

 gangster (Koji Yakusho) and his mistress (Fukumi Kuroda
Fukumi Kuroda
Kuroda Fukumi is a Japanese actress.-Filmography:# Muscle Girl as Lee Soon Ja # Lakeside Maadaakeisu # Dodge, Go Go!...

), who find eyebrow-raising and erotic new ways to use food. Other satirical vignettes involve a lowly office intern who upstages his senior management superiors by displaying a vast and cultured culinary knowledge while ordering at a gourmet French restaurant; a housewife who rises from her deathbed to cook one last meal for her family; and a women's etiquette class in learning how to eat spaghetti properly, i.e. without a sound as "people from foreign countries
is a Japanese word meaning "non-Japanese", or "alien". This word is a short form of gaikokujin , which literally means "person from outside of the country". The word is composed of two kanji: , meaning "outside"; and , meaning "person". Thus, the word technically means "outsider"...

 would absolutely never forgive loud slurping". Another subplot involves a corner store clerk who has to deal with an older woman obsessed with squeezing food. The clerk's scene segues into a restaurant involving gangsters and stock market scams.

Further reading

  • Ashkenazi, Michael. "Food, Play, Business, and the Image of Japan in Itami Juzo's Tampopo." In Anne Bower, ed., Reel Food: Essays on Food and Film (New York: Routledge, 2004).

External links

  • Tampopo at the Japanese Movie Database
    Japanese Movie Database
    The , commonly referred to as JMDB, is an online database of information about Japanese movies, actors, and production crew personnel. It is similar to the Internet Movie Database, but lists only those films originally released in Japan. The site was started in 1997, and contains movies from Meiji...

  • Review: Hinson, Hal, 'Tampopo', June 17, 1987, Washington Post. Accessed 2008 March 29.