I’m obsessed about food, from the main dish to the tiny desserts, from the cuisine of East to West, from the food’s taste to the presentation. Apart from eating and Pinning constantly pictures about food, I spend hours watching movies about food. Movies about food calm me, excite me and inspire me. Speaking about food movies, can I say Asian directors have flair for making food movies in terms of content and aesthetic sides? And among the Asian food movies, the Japanese films are especially crazy about food. Japan is a country that is crazy about food from the taste to presentation, and every dimension of food. And yes, the Japanese food is super delicious to my taste bud. When I stayed in Japan years ago, I never had one day spent without trying something delicious. People lining up in front of a humble store, waiting for hours in order to slurp a hot bowl of ramen or 24/24 stores catered for any kind of food craving are among things to say about Japan’s craze about food.
One time, I read a research about the role of the word ‘oishii’ (meaning delicious) in Japanese people’s behaviors towards food. The way they say the word oishii actually enhances their appetite and appreciation for food. It’s a mental kick. The word is more of a catalyst rather than just a praise. Every time I switched on TV when I used to live in Japan, I always could find at least one channel airing shows about food. Those shows are flooded with words ‘oishisou’ (look delicious) and ‘oishii’ (delicious). Japanese movies are not simply about the direct, straightforward showcase of food an recipes. They don’t just stop at being the food porn; they are about food bringing people together, about food calm and inspire people. In this post, I will write about my favorite Japanese movies or dorama about food. Japanese food-based movies are categorized in a different style: light-hearted, tranquil diners to the heated, chaotic kitchens. This post is about my favorite slice-of-life, light-hearted Japanese food-based movies/dorama.
1. Kamome Diner:
This movie is one of my most favorite movie about Japanese cuisine although the movie was set out in a country far from Japan. Another reason that I put this movie on the top of the list is that the movie is a bridge between Japanese cuisine and Finnish culture, where P.I.F Corner is based:)
Setting out in Finland, a country far away from Japan, Kamome Diner turns out to be the perfect blend of Japanese and Finnish cuisines. Finland is not a popular destination for tourism so the background Finland of this movie gives the movie a different, quaint feel. When watching the movie for the first time, I was so excited to see my beloved city on screen, especially on the Japanese screen. In Japanese movies, it is not unusual to see foreign cities as backgrounds in Japanese movies. Paris, New York, Berlin, London or Seoul are in many Japanese movies already. But Helsinki in Finland? Not that many non-Finnish movies have been filmed in Helsinki (at least to my knowledge).
Back to Kamome Diner, this movie was a huge success in Japan. It is one of the reasons why Finland is quite popular among Japanese people. Kamome Diner is featured in Japanese travel books and many Japanese tourists ask us about Kamome Diner in real life. Many Finnish people get surprised to know that one small restaurant in Helsinki can be that popular in Japan :)
Kamome Diner means Seagull Diner, and Roukala Lokki in Finnish. Kamome Diner centers around a 38-year-old Japanese woman Sachie (Satomi Kobayashi) opening a small diner in the coastal city Helsinki, Finland. Although her diner is sparkling clean and nicely located in the center of Helsinki, the diner is empty and not a person dares to step into the diner. But then, more characters appear in the diner and in Sachie’s life as well, creating a new, lovely turn for the movie.
The movie is highlighted with the quirky humor when several locals look into the diner, get confused and move on. The humor scenes in the movie highlight the typical traits in Finnish people: shy and quiet. However, their witty sense of humor is shown in the scene of three old Finnish ladies peering into the diner, and wondering whether Sachie is an adult or a baby girl. They commented, laughed and quietly moved on. Sachie then met two other Japanese persons, who happened to be in Finland as an unordinary drifter and a visitor.
(Sachie in Kamome Diner's kitchen)
The movie, later on, unfolds the story of every character from Sachie, Midori to Masako. Although all of their activities are attached to the running of the diner with their love for Finnish cuisine and Japanese cuisine, each character draws a personal story about their own background and self-discovery. The movie also gives an eccentric feel about the interaction between people and people, of different cultures and backgrounds. Kamome Diner is beautifully made with light-filled scenes of a Helsinki in summer, where people go to open market, watching seagulls and take a stroll in the forest. The movie is also filled with humor, depth, and cultural metaphors. Speaking of the food scenes, the food is all made beautifully with great details. Not really much a food porn, but the scenes of making food really calm me. In Kamome Diner, cooking food is about peacefulness and self-discovery. It's about how you put care and joy to cooking and eating.
The movie is very about how food can bring people together, and be open about ourselves.
Look at this meal!!! It looks soo nice from the bowls, plates to the food!:) If you are interested in the recipe of the dishes in this picture, please let me know in comment!
2. Shiawase no Pan
About the light-hearted food-based movies, I can’t forget Shiawase no Pan (Bread of Happiness), the movie not the anime ehemm. Thanks to that Finnish friend again, I knew about the movie when it was released in 2012. When hearing anything about food-based movies, I know I have to check it out. :) Shiawase no Pan is not particularly about a dish or category of food. The movie is quiet and peaceful as it portrays a laid-back, tranquil lifestyle in a countryside. Shiawase no Pan is about a cafe serving organic seasonal dishes, always accompanied with freshly baked bread and coffee. The movie is like an instrumental song, enveloping the life of people around the cafe: people who run the cafe (Rie and Nao) and who visit the cafe frequently or the very first time. The time in the movie spans in four seasons when Rie serves different special guests with different seasonal food. In each season, there are new characters entering Rie and Nao’s cafe with different stories to be told and shared.
The highlight of the movie is the rhythm of the life in the Japanese countryside and the pleasure found in making food. It is so much about the minimalist lifestyle. Looking Rie and Nao cooking bread and making coffee, I wish I could fly to Hokkaido to taste a little bit of this organic lifestyle. The cafe Mani in the movie is a real cafe near Toya Lake called Cafe Gauche. Beside getting the eye-pleasing food scenes, the natural scenes of Hokkaido are what we can never forget about Shiawase no Pan.
Like many other Japanese food movies, Shiawase no Pan is about food but not really about food :) It is about how food is related to our life and feelings. In this movie, food is about sharing, happiness and also about sadness.
3. Bread and Soup, and Cat Weather (Pan to Supu to Neko Biyori)
This is a mini-series, which has only four 20-minute episodes about a small cafe serving sandwiches and soup. Only sandwiches and soup, nothing more. In this mini-series, we get to see Satomi Kobayashi and Masako Motai again, who starred in Kamome Diner. Satomi-san does give an eccentric, calm feel about food during the scenes of her cooking. She looks calm and satisfied when she is cooking food with great detail and efficiency.
Bread, soup, cat, and weather is about Akiko, who lives with her mother then out of sudden, her mother passes away. That’s the moment she wants to re-organize her life and her passion. She quits her editing job and takes over her mother’s small restaurant. Unlike her mother’s small restaurant that serves different small Japanese traditional dishes with sake, her small cafe only serves two things: a sandwich and soup. The weather and a cat are two other compliments to the food in the diner. If you expect a tranquil, calm and light-hearted movie about the quick meal and organic food, this series is for you. This series brings me to a small, cozy cafe at the corner – a cafe with the simplistic decor and lovely, tasty food– in a clear, beautiful day.
4. Rinco’s restaurant
But , in fact, I prefer the second poster :D
Simplicity, subtleness, and freshness are the central themes of Japanese traditional food. Rinco’s restaurant is about slow food, and especially, the Japanese slow food. In the past years, there have been massive changes in the food consumption habits of Japanese people: more consumption of western food and fast food. There are more and more options for people to consume food in a fast, convenient way. Convenience stores are fully-loaded with ready-made bento, rice balls, or to-go noodles. Japanese-styled fast food stores are catered for busy people who have little time to cook but still want a good-quality meal. Honestly, the second kind was the type I frequently dine in during my study in Tokyo: cheap, hot and high in calories –nothing is better for a busy poor foreign student like me.
Back to the movie, it is like going against the trend as it reminds people to appreciate slow food by spending more time in cooking and using fresh, organic ingredients. Again, typical of J-movies about food, Rinco’s Restaurant touches other sides beside food; it delves on the mother-daughter relationship, unfolding Rinco’s past and her relationship with mother. Her restaurant not only offers comfort food to the people but also brings people together and make them solve their own life problems.
5. Patisserie Coin de rue
This movie is not exactly about slow food, but I love to include it here because 1, I love Yu Aoi (the main actress- she is an awesome actress), and 2, this movie focuses on the pure effort and joy in making cakes.The movie offers me the mouth-watering scene of cakes :)
Patisserie Coin de rue centers around a pastry shop in the corner, which offers delicate, delicious cakes made with utmost care and techniques. The movie starts with Natsume, a young girl traveling from a countryside to the Coin de rue in Tokyo to find her boyfriend. But Natsume comes the long way just to know that her boyfriend has quit the store for a while. Natsume, fascinated by the lovely cakes, persuades the owners of the store, Yuriko & Julian, to let her work in the pastry shop.
(Yu Aoi as Natsume. She did take the role pretty well , especially in trying an distinct accent)
Meanwhile, Tomura , who is known widely as a legendary patissier but then left the field and retreats to lecture at culinary school, is a regular customer at the Coin de Rue shop. The secrets, hidden feelings and changes in everyone’s life in the shop are gradually unfolded as the movie rolls.
(here come the lovely, mouthwatering cakes scenes!!)
Of course, there are more to add to this list, which I will write about in Part 2! So, what are your favorite Asian movies about food? :) Sometimes watching those movies make me go hungry at midnight and then hate myself when looking at my sad, empty fridge. But, I just can't help digging for more food movies :)