Tampopo: The Japanese Relationship With Food

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In one of the first scenes of Juzo Itami’s Tampopo, a master instructs a pupil on how to properly eat a bowl of noodles; he tells the eager student to “First observe the whole bowl. Appreciate its gestalt.” This advice is perfectly fitting to the viewing of the film, as the relationship that Japanese people have with food is not easily understood from one simple story, hence Itami’s usage of several vignettes throughout the film. Tampopo is a discussion about foodways throughout different elements of Japanese culture. The film primarily follows the story of a woman named Tampopo, who is desperate to improve her failing noodle shop; however, it also discusses other components of culture in Japan. Utilizing food as the vehicle for holism, Itami addresses a variety of societal issues, including: acculturation and modernity; individuality and conformity; norms and deviance; enculturation and belonging; obsession and taboo; and life and death. Elements of Western acculturation and modernity within Japan are seen in early on in Tampopo. “The Suits Order Dinner” and “Spagetiquette” scenes both take place in a very Western or European style restaurant that is adorned with oil paintings, glass stemware and white tablecloths. The environment is in strong contrast to that of Tampopo’s very traditional Japanese noodle shop. In one part of the restaurant, “The Suits Order Dinner” is taking place; a group of Japanese business men, wearing Western suits and ties, sit to order dinner. The men look over the menu, which is written entirely in French, and it seems apparent that most of them cannot read the menu. The most senior executive orders first and all the other men order exactly what he has, except for the most junior executive. The junior, despite being actually kicked in disapproval by another executive, displays his knowledge of French cuisine and orders

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