Tampopo, the Pioneering ‘Ramen Western’

A food-erotica comedy, the cult film Tampopo is the first - and only - self-proclaimed representative of the 'ramen western' genre.

24.03.2020

Poster for Tampopo Theatrical Release - Janus Films

Released in 1985, this second feature film from Juzo Itami is a ‘ramen western’, alluding to the famous ‘spaghetti westerns‘, westerns made in Italy, of which one of the most iconic representatives is Sergio Leone.  

This film is considered as a sort of food-erotica comedy. It contains western elements, violence, spying and zany stories, the latter often being linked to food (for example the woman who goes around fondling fruit and cheese in a supermarket, and the couple whose bedroom antics feature eggs).

The heroine, Tampopo, is a young widow who runs a noodle soup (ramen) restaurant in a working-class neighbourhood in Tokyo, where she meets Goro, a trucker who looks like a cowboy. Goro finds that Tampopo’s ramen is ‘missing something‘. The pair decide to set out on a culinary quest, the aim of which is to find the perfect noodle recipe.

Humorous and satirical, the film nevertheless maintains a deeply respectful attitude towards food. Tampopo is Juzo Itami’s only film to have been released in cinemas in France. It’s a film that’s ideal to (re)watch while enjoying a bowl of Japanese noodle soup.