A woman named Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto) is left in charge of her husband’s run-down noodle shop after he dies. She has problems improving the quality of the place (especially the cooking) until she receives assistance from Gorô (Tsutomu Yamazaki), a rugged cowboy-type truck driver who helps her turn the place into something special.
Occasionally, the story veers away from this central plotline to follow other characters in food-related scenes.
There’s a vignette about a group of girls being taught how to eat noodle soup properly by an etiquette teacher at a restaurant. They notice another patron in the restaurant, sucking at his noodles loudly but clearly enjoying them. The girls then do the same thing, prompting the teacher to follow suit, all of them sucking away noisily at their noodles.
Scenes involving a white-suited gangster (Kôji Yakusho) and his beautiful moll (Fukumi Kuroda) are erotically charged and quite striking.
There’s a moment where they pass a raw egg yolk back and forth with their mouths slowly and erotically without rupturing it. The next stage in their foreplay involves upturning a pot of live shrimp on her naked belly . . .
The whole film revolves around food in its various forms – a mother on her deathbed who rises for one last time to cook a final dinner for her saddened family; a woman obsessed with squeezing food in a supermarket; a lowly company worker who displays his vast culinary knowledge in a French restaurant while his bossy superiors always order the same thing without even understanding the menu – and watching it will make you hungry, so be prepared!
Described as “a ramen western”, the movie was a flop in Japan but a hit overseas, especially in the United States, where it became the second-highest-earning Japanese film ever.
Director Jûzô Itami took his own life in 1997 after being accused of adultery. He was 64.
Gangster in the White Suit
Master of ramen making
Rich Old Man
Rich old man’s mistress
Ramen stand owner
Ramen shop owner in Chinatown
Tabo, Tampopo’s Son