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 in 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 specially 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 crave are among things to say about Japan’s craze about food.

Once time, I read a research about the role of the word ‘oishii’ (meaning delicious) in Japanese people’s behaviours 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 favouriteJapanese movies or dorama about food. Japanes food-based movies are categorised in different style: light-hearted , tranquil diners to the heated , chaotic kitchens. This post is about my favourite slice-of-life, light-hearted Japanese food-based movies / dorama.

1.    Kamome Diner:

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This movie is one of my most favourite movie about Japanese cuisine although the movie was set out in a country far from Japan.

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. Also, as I  did spend some years in Finland, I was particularly interested in seeing my beloved city on screen, especially on Japanese screen. In Japanese movies, using a foreign city apart from Japanese cities is set out as a main background for the story is not something unusual. Cities in France, Britain, America or Ireland are in many Japanese movies already. But Helsinki in Finland? Not that many movies using Helsinki (at least to my knowledge). In university, I had a Finnish friend and she was also interested in Japanese movies. She did tell me about Kamome Diner pride and joy. And when a Japanese exchange student went to my school, she asked me how to find the diner in this movie as this diner was featured in her Japanese travel book. That’s the time I came to realise how popular this movie was. Kamome Diner is a very relaxing movie which features food, beautiful scenes and a witty, quirky humor. 

Kamome Diner is in Japanese, which translates to Seagull Diner, and Roukala Lokki in Finnish. Kamome Diner centers around an 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 appears in the diner and in Sachie’s life as well, creating a new, lovely turn for the movie. For more review of the film, I wrote it here: Kamome Diner Review

The movie is highlighted with the quirky humour when several locals look into the diner, get confused and move on. The humour scenes in the movie highlight the typical traits in Finnish people: shy and quiet. However, their witty sense of humour 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 a unordinary drifter and a visitor.

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                               (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 strolls in forest. The movie is also filled with humour, 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.

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2.    Shiawase no Pan

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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 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 Japanese countryside and the pleasure found in making food. Looking Rie and Nao cooking bread and making coffee, I wish I could fly to Hokkaido to taste a little bit of organic lifestyle. The setting for the cafe Mani in movie is a real cafe near Toya Lake called Cafe Gauche. Beside getting organic, eye-pleasing food scenes, the natural scenes of Hokkaido are what we can never forget about Shiawase no Pan.

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3.    Bread and Soup, and Cat Weather (Pan to Supu to Neko Biyori)

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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-organise 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: 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 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 simplistic decor and lovely, tasty food– in a clear, beautiful day. 

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4.    Rinco’s restaurant

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But , in fact, I prefer the second poster 😀

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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 full-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 for the people but also brings people together and make them solve their own life problems.

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5.  Patisserie Coin de rue

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This movie is not a blockbuster or critically acclaimed for either content or astonishing cinematography. The plot of the movie is pretty much readable and predictable. However, I opt to list this movie in this post as this movie is one of rare movies are actually about pastry and baking. The movie offers me mouth-watering scene of cakes 🙂

Patisserie Coin de rue centres 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 travelling 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. 

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(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 of everyone’s life in the shop are gradually unfolded as the movie rolls.

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(here comes the lovely, mouthwatering cakes scenes!!)

Of course, there are more to add in this list, which I will write about in Part 2! So, what are your favourite 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 🙂

(Pictures dont belong to me)

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