Haiku reflections on Japan

The Samurai way … or not

Dramas about food – yum

yet not so eager about 

diners in this one

I guess because I wasn’t overly impressed with it that I didn’t mention sooner a drama series called Samurai Gourmet which I watched lately.  I had a lot to say about the recent films I watched (I really hope you haven’t watched A taxing woman returns!).

A newly retired salary man, a nice guy too (unlike the obnoxious image of salary men you often get which is of course unfair to most of them), who finds himself with not a lot to do in his retirement but eat out everyday finds his behaviour somewhat influenced by the presence, which only he can see, of a samurai who is not shy about acting the way he wants.  This is mostly good – he learns to relax and not pay so much attention to what people might think of him – and sometimes ‘bad’ – he still backs down from a ‘good’ confrontation or gets intimidated too easily when he tries to ask someone to shut it as he’s annoying other customers.  If you summon up the courage to start to tell someone to shut it you should follow it through.

As an aside, I still think you should never slurp your pasta in Japan even if you’re taught that it’s ok with noodles.   Even if everyone else is doing it.   And I was not impressed with the way the pasta was cooked in the second or third episode I think it was.

An extra quirk is that in the scenes with the samurai, the actors present, bar the retiree, suddenly change from their modern attire to the style of dress from the particular era the samurai comes from and when he disappears they’re seen again in their modern attire.  The retired salary man is played by an actor I might have mentioned here before, Naoto Takenaka.  He’s a good actor for this kind of role.

It’s a real slow-moving casual kind of drama, sometimes charming, often funny, about an ordinary guy (re-)discovering himself in a Japan he hardly recognises (he’s been so busy working and has never had the time to relax and observe what’s going on around him) and in some ways it looks at family ties as well.  His wife seems to live her own life completely and his niece acts like he should be happy with her company even if she’s ignoring him and engaging more with her phone. Though I wouldn’t compare it quality wise to Cafe Lumiere, it did remind me of that film, only with humour.   I guess it’s a good one after all!  Midnight Diner, with its raggle taggle of different customers and a very taciturn diner owner, another nice guy, is similar but also without as much humour.

Speaking of Cafe Lumiere, Huo Hsiao-Hsien is 70 today (the 8th of April) – happy birthday!

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