Streaming Japanese movies #6: Tampopo and Katsuo-Bushi

Each week members of the CAMERA JAPAN team pick their favourite Japanese films to watch at home on all kinds of streaming services. This time, we recommend two movies for foodies.

Francesca BOI (Programmer) picks Tampopo (ITAMI Jūzō, 1985)

Tampopo is a mediocre ramenya (a ramen noodle shop) owner, whose business is in decline since her husband died. Moved by compassion, one of her customers Gorō resolves to help the woman revive the shop business, and together with other companions starts a tough training for Tampopo to become the best ramen cook.

The action in this classic initially resembles western movies (it is certainly not a coincidence, as the movie is presented as a ramen western in its trailer, clearly contrasting the renowned spaghetti western genre), but it quickly deviates into an ironically, pushed-to-the-limit race towards the creation of the perfect ramen bowl. The main plot is interspersed with self-conclusive episodes about food, filled with the same nonsense and often relatable to sex and insanity for the sensual enjoyment that is enclosed in the Japanese obsession for any type of cuisine.
Click here to watch Tampopo on Picl (and support LantarenVenster)

Nancy FORNOVILLE (Financial Director) picks Katsuo-Bushi (NAKAJIMA Yu, 2015)

For everyone who ever wondered how bonito flakes are made, the documentary Katsuo-Bushi: Dried Bonito by NAKAJIMA Yu will unveil its secrets. The film shows how a small group of craftsmen still produce Katsuo-bushi the traditional way. It is a time consuming and complex process, where each step requires attention to detail and careful handling of the fish.

Because of this attention to the craft, the film will not only appeal to lovers of Japanese cuisine, but also to those intrigued by tradition and craftmanship. It looks as if time has passed by this workplace, the people and the machines are old, but everything is still working perfectly. However, even they have had to adapt certain aspects of their trade, for instance the fish is no longer coming from a local market. In relation to this, NAKAJIMA highlights the influence of a changing industry, in which everything needs to be cheap and produced fast. It is in stark contrast with the traditional methods of what might be the world’s smallest katsuo-bushi workshop.
Click here to stream Katsuo-Bushi on Vimeo