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Film / Tampopo

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Tampopo is a 1985 Japanese film directed by Juzo Itami, starring Tsutomu Yamazaki and Ken Watanabe. A sketch comedy revolving around food, its main narrative involves a pair of truck drivers, one dressed like a cowboy, who take it upon themselves to revitalize the eponymous character's failing ramen shop. Another bit involves a white-suited Yakuza and his mistress engaging in food play. Beyond that, there's a man who teaches the proper method of eating ramen, managers getting upstaged by a subordinate at a French restaurant, spaghetti slurping, homeless foodies, trips to the dentist, an old woman who wrecks a grocer's produce, a pickpocket who loves peking duck, and a dying housewife who prepares one last meal for her family.

The film was popular overseas in the late-'80s art house circuit, and many ramen shops claim to have been inspired by it.


This work contains the following tropes:

  • All Just a Dream: The other shop breaking in and attacking Tampopo.
  • Bar Brawl: Takes place offscreen.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: What the hell are they doing with that poor crayfish?
  • Black Comedy: The scene with the man and his sick wife certainly qualifies.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The yakuza at the beginning, setting up a dining table in the front row of a movie theater.
  • Culture Clash: The high-end European restaurant is offering Western etiquette lessons to Japanese women, where care is taken to demonstrate the "proper" way to eat spaghetti, which is portrayed as a dainty, slow process. The demonstrator is quickly interrupted by a Western man slurping at his own spaghetti-, which is ironically the correct etiquette for eating Japanese noodle dishes like ramen.
  • Defeat Means Friendship:
    • After Pisken and Goro fight one last time, they end up as friends.
    • Tabo beats up the three kids who've been picking on him, and they end the movie going off together as friends.
  • Food Porn: A literal example as well as a figurative one. Let's just say this movie will make you hungry. Specifically, for ramen.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: Besides the main plotline (and the one about the yakuza and his mistress), there are a few other miniature plots that revolve around food, such as the Ramen Slurp sketch.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: How Goro and Pisken fight.
  • Homage: Various westerns, notably Shane.
  • It Always Rains At Shootouts: When the white-suited yakuza is killed.
  • Lighthearted Rematch: After the Bar Brawl, Pisken asks for a rematch. He felt sorry for not fighting Goro one on one, and they spar again leading to Defeat Means Friendship.
  • Nice Hat: Goro's cowboy hat. He even wears it in the bath!
  • Old Master: The Ramen Master, who gives extensive advice on the making, eating, and general philosophy of noodles.
  • Overcomplicated Menu Order: There's a scene where a bunch of businessmen visit a French restaurant. Each person defers up the ladder of seniority until the CEO of the company orders (Sole Meuniere with consomme and a Heineken). Each person down the chain of command promptly orders the same thing — except the most junior executive. He turns out to be an expert on French food, and makes a complex order and wine selection that thrills the waiter, but embarrasses the heck out of everyone else.
    • This is also somewhat of a commentary on traditional Japanese business etiquette. The exec the henpecked junior guy works for is so preoccupied with not losing face in front of his superiors that he and the others all just order the same thing that the CEO has.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The movie uses Mahler in several places. Also Liszt.
  • Ramen Slurp: A sketch revolves around it.
  • Recycled In Space: Shane WITH RAMEN!
  • Serious Business: The preparation and consumption of food, as most of the characters see it.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Tampopo in the chef's outfit.
  • Stealth Based Omelette Making: A group of homeless people break into a restaurant at night in order to use the kitchen.
  • Training Montage: Parodied with ramen making.
  • White Shirt of Death: When the yakuza is shot.
  • Widget Series: It's a western. About ramen.
  • Yakuza: One of the major characters.
  • Yum Yum: The crawfish scene.


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