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Theatrical re-release poster
Directed byJuzo Itami
Screenplay byJuzo Itami
Produced by
  • Juzo Itami
  • Yasushi Tamaoki
  • Seigo Hosogoe[1]
CinematographyMasaki Tamura[1]
Edited byAkira Suzuki[1]
Music byKunihiko Murai[1]
  • Itami Productions
  • New Century Producers[1]
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • November 23, 1985 (1985-11-23) (Japan)
Running time
115 minutes[1]

Tampopo (タンポポ, Tanpopo, literally "dandelion") is a 1985 Japanese comedy film written and directed by Juzo Itami, and starring Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto, Kōji Yakusho, and Ken Watanabe. The publicity for the film calls it the first "ramen Western", a play on the term spaghetti Western.


A pair of truck drivers, the experienced Gorō and a younger colleague named Gun, stop at a decrepit roadside ramen noodle shop. Outside, Gorō rescues a boy who is being beaten by three schoolmates. The boy, Tabo, is the son of Tampopo, the widowed owner of the struggling ramen shop, Lai Lai. A customer called Pisken harasses Tampopo, demanding that she sell the shop. Gorō suggests Pisken be quiet so he can enjoy his meal, then provokes a physical confrontation. Gorō puts up a good fight but, outnumbered by Pisken and his men, he is knocked out and awakens the next morning in Tampopo's home.

The next morning, she kindly cooks breakfast for Gorō and Gun in her home kitchen and sends Tabo off to school. While eating breakfast, Tampopo asks for their opinion of her ramen, Gorō and Gun tell her they are "sincere, but lack character." After Gorō gives her some advice, she asks him to become her teacher. They decide to turn her establishment into a paragon of the "art of noodle soup making". She and Gorō visit her competitors and he points out their strengths and weaknesses. She still is struggling to fix the broth, so Gorō visits a homeless encampment to enlist the "old master" and his superlative expertise. When they rescue a wealthy elderly man from choking on his food, the man lends her the services of his chauffeur Shohei, who has a masterly way with noodles. Through clever trickery, they pry ramen secrets from their competitors. Gun and his friends give Tampopo a makeover as a modern proprietress. During the transition, the group agrees to change the restaurant's name from "Lai Lai" to "Tampopo".

Pisken feels bad for being too drunk to tell his men to stay out of the fight, so he offers Gorō another chance one-on-one. After the rematch ends in a draw, Pisken reveals he is a contractor and Tampopo's childhood friend, and offers to renovate the shop's interior. Tampopo's latest effort still comes up short, so Pisken teaches her his own secret recipe. When the five men consume her latest creation down to the last drop, Tampopo knows she has won. Tabo also triumphs, beating all three of his tormentors and subsequently befriending them. As customers fill her newly redecorated shop, the men file out one by one.

Throughout the film, other minor scenes of other characters are featured. A group of business executives visit a French restaurant but have no idea how to order and are upstaged by a surprisingly worldly subordinate. A women's etiquette class on how to eat spaghetti silently in the European manner abruptly changes course upon observing a white man slurping his noodles. A supermarket clerk catches an aged woman obsessed with squeezing food. A con man uses an elaborate meal to lure a victim into an investment scam; the victim is himself a thief but is so taken by the meal that he fails to leave with the con man's wallet before being arrested. A housewife rises from her deathbed to cook one last meal for her family, who mournfully eat to memorialize her. A man and his lover explore erotic ways to use food. The man is ultimately shot several times by an unknown assailant, to his lover's horror, though he is satisfied at the end of his life and hopes to see it play out like a film. A woman on a park bench breastfeeds an infant.



Throughout, the film references stereotypical American movie themes, characters, music, and camera shots.[citation needed]


Tampopo was released in Japan on November 23, 1985, distributed by Toho.[1] New Yorker Films released the film in the United States in 1987.[1]

The Criterion Collection prepared a 4K restoration of Tampopo that was released in theaters and via Blu-ray in October 2016.[2]


Critical response[edit]

Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars, commenting that "Like the French comedies of Jacques Tati, it's a bemused meditation on human nature in which one humorous situation flows into another offhandedly, as if life were a series of smiles."[3]

Hal Hinson of The Washington Post wrote, "The movie, which Itami calls a 'noodle Western,' is a rambunctious mixture of the bawdy and the sublime...Tampopo is perhaps the funniest movie about the connection between food and sex ever made."[4]

Andrew Johnston writing in Time Out New York commented: "This film is his broadest comedy by far, and its principal subjects are those great global constants, food and sex. That, combined with the plot's sly evocation of movie Westerns, made it widely accessible to foreign audiences."[5]

Vincent Canby provided a somewhat dissenting, though still positive, opinion in his New York Times review, stating, "Though it's not consistently funny... Tampopo is one of the more engaging films to be shown in this year's [New Directors/New Films] series... Mr. Itami often strains after comic effects that remain elusive. The most appealing thing about Tampopo is that he never stops trying."[6]

Tampopo has received unanimous praise from critics, with a 100% approval rating and average score of 8.53/10 from Rotten Tomatoes, based on 52 reviews. The site's critical consensus states, "Thanks to director Juzo Itami's offbeat humor and sharp satirical edge, Tampopo is a funny, sexy, affectionate celebration of food and its broad influence on Japanese culture."[7]


Tampopo received two Japanese Academy Awards: for Best Editing and for Best Sound. In the United States, it was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film and a National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay and Best Director.[8]


The 2008 American/Japanese movie The Ramen Girl, in which a girl played by Brittany Murphy learns how to cook ramen, contains many references to Tampopo, including a cameo by Tsutomu Yamazaki.

A number of ramen restaurants around the world have been named Tampopo.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Galbraith IV 2008, p. 346.
  2. ^ "Tampopo's Delicious Return to Theaters". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger (1987-09-11). "Tampopo Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  4. ^ Hinson, Hal (June 17, 1987). "'Tampopo' (NR)". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ Johnston, Andrew (January 22, 1998). "Death and taxes". Time Out New York.
  6. ^ Canby, Vincent (March 26, 1987). "New Directors/New Films; 'Tampopo,' A Comedy from Japan". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Tampopo at Rotten Tomatoes
  8. ^ Tampopo - IMDb, retrieved 2022-09-05
  9. ^ Waitrose Food Illustrated 2001 - Page 32 "Tampopo is one of a rapidly growing number of noodle bars offering a broad range of Asian dishes, served quickly, in simple surroundings, at reasonable prices. The Manchester branch of Tampopo (there's another in Leeds) is an airy ..."


Further reading[edit]

  • Ashkenazi, Michael. "Food, Play, Business, and the Image of Japan in Itami Juzo's Tampopo". In Anne Bower, ed., Reel Food: Essays on Food and Film (New York: Routledge, 2004).

External links[edit]