When's the last time you walked away from a movie hungry?
It's pretty rare for me. American movies about food seem to be few and far between, and the ones that are around are usually socially-conscious documentaries that bum me out more than anything.
Japanese movies about food seem to do exactly the opposite. Most food movies out of Japan focus a lot on the role of food in bringing people together, the journeys people go through for food and, most importantly of all, always make me really hungry. Would you expect anything less from the country that brought us Iron Chef?
I gathered up some of the best Japanese movies about food I could find. If these don't rouse your appetite, then you might not have a stomach.
Tampopo is the be all and end all of Japanese food movies. Period. Full stop. If you say that any other food movie is better then sorry, but you're wrong.
Billed as a "Ramen Western" (a play on the "Spaghetti Western" genre of movies), Tampopo is, at its most basic, the story of a woman trying to turn her ramen shop around to save it from its own mediocrity.
But that simple description does such disservice to the movie. Tampopo jumps around, exploring different topics, settings, and stories, culminating into a movie that encompasses life, death, love, and all of the big questions in life.
If you've never heard of or seen Tampopo before, then see it as soon as you can. But in the meantime, you can read our post on Tampopo and philosophy.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary all about Jiro Ono, chef at the best sushi restaurant in the world, Sukiyabashi Jiro. How do you get to be the best sushi chef in the world? Jiro Dreams of Sushi tells Jiro's life story and explores his philosophy on sushi and life in general.
This movie is the definition of food porn, full of close-up shots of freshly-made sushi glistening with soy sauce, moments before it's delicately gobbled down by a appreciative diner. Even if you can't go to the best sushi restaurant in the world, Jiro Dreams of Sushi will give you a very personal view of the sushi.
You also get a glimpse into the inner workings of the Japanese restaurant industry, all the way up and down the supply chain. It's a behind-the-scenes tour that not many people get.
You can watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi on Netflix and Hulu Plus.
In Japan, udon noodles plays second fiddle to ramen. Not only is the greatest Japanese food movie, Tampopo, about ramen, but ramen has taken off in the Japanese food world the way udon never has.
People in Japan are always tinkering with ramen, coming up with new and exciting ways to serve it. There are so many variations when it comes to broth, noodles, and toppings, that it's hard to keep track of it all. (Although we've written a guide to ramen
That doesn't mean that you should ignore udon. Not only is it delicious in its own right, but it even has its own movie, appropriately titled Udon.
Udon, like Tampopo, is a bit of an underdog story, but is much different from seminal classic. It follows a washed-up comedian who returns home to help construct an udon pilgrimmage of sorts.
Ironically enough, one of the members of the comedy group the Rahmens appears in the movie. Maybe ramen and udon can be friends after all!
The Antarctic Cook nankyokuryourinin 南極料理人
When you're stationed at a research facility in Antarctica, it's easy to get homesick. Surrounded by vast stretches of impossibly cold desert, you long for more hospitable surroundings.
Fortunately, some familiar food can go a long way. The Antarctic Cook follows the crew at Antarctica's Dome Fuji Station and, more specifically, Nishimura, the crew's chef.
Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し)
You might think that Spirited Away isn't really a food movie. After all, isn't it one of those Studio Ghibli movies about magic and wonder?
And you'd be right. But, Spirited Away also happens to feature enough tasty-looking food to make your mouth water. Even though the food is all illustrated, the variety and serving sizes of those foods still provoke your appetite.
You can read our article about how Spirited Away is the perfect foodie movie for more.
Honorable mention: eatrip
eatrip (a portmanteau of "eat" and "trip") is a simple documentary about how food bring people together. Despite featuring dreamboat actor Tadanoba Asano and coming out pretty recently (2009), I couldn't track it down through either legitimate or not-so-legitimate means.
The trailer makes the movie look promising, but every review site I've come across gives it pretty mediocre ratings. Just as well, I suppose.
What food movies make your mouth water? Did I miss you favorite Japanese food movie on this list? Do you want to try to make the argument that Tampopo isn't the best (rofl)? Tell me on Twitter!