Like seeds of a dandelion blowing in the wind, the plot of Tampopo
wanders in several directions, following the lives of a quirky collection of characters. At the heart of this film is a young widow named Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto), who is struggling to make ends meet by running a noodle restaurant. Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki), a truck driver, saves Tampopo's young son from being beaten by a group of school girls and is rewarded with a bowl of very bad ramen (noodles). Goro tells Tampopo the awful truth about her cooking and she asks for his help. Together they search for the perfect ramen recipe.
Intersecting this part of the plot are several smaller and less well-realized stories. Koji Yakusho, who stars in Shall We Dance, appears as a sensuous gangster who would rather play with his food than eat it. Then there's the mysterious Noodle Master who lives with a group of street vagabonds and a young executive who knows how to order food from a French menu, but not how to preserve the dignity of his superiors.
While the film as a whole feels somewhat disjointed, writer-director Juzo Itami manages to infuse Tampopo (which means "dandelion") with a sense of Japanese joie de vivre that is worth experiencing. Take notes during the "soup scenes" and see what you can cook up for yourself. --Luanne Brown