Japan certainly has a sweet tooth — as well as perfectionism toward details that the art of making sweets requires. What many people don’t know about Japan, however, is that December here is also the month for Christmas cakes — one of the most special sweets in the year. So just in time for Christmas, we’ve put together a list of four movies centered around … desserts — the pinnacle of every good dish and a source of a single moment of peace and happiness for many people — as believed in Japan. We guarantee these films will make you crave for an extra slice of cake!
1.Patisserie Coin de rue, 洋菓子店コアンドル, 2011
A story about, love, heartbreak, losing yourself, ambition and mouthwatering desserts Patisserie Coin de rue delves deep into the world of pastries and the life behind the people who make them. The movie follows the journey of Natsume, a young woman who relocates from Kagoshima in southern Japan to Tokyo in an effort to find and reconnect with her elusive boyfriend. She arrives at Patisserie Coin de rue, the supposed workplace of her boyfriend, only to discover that he has left the job and apparently disappeared off the face of the planet. Filled with ambition and love-struck hopefulness, Natsume convinces the owners of the fancy patisserie to give her a job while she awaits her boyfriend’s return. During her time working at the patisserie, the protagonist crosses paths with the brooding and enigmatic Tomura, an ex-pastry chef who left the profession to become a guidebook writer, teacher and freelance pastry critic.
An at times tumultuous, though ultimately beneficial pairing, Natsume and Tomura drive each other a little crazy while managing to be the catalysts for one another’s success and ability to overcome adversity. Directed by Yoshihiro Fukagawa, a name more well known in the Japanese indie film world, this beautifully shot film explores the behind the scenes happening in a high-end dessert kitchen in Japan, as well as the way food can bring people together like nothing else.
Main cast: Yosuke Eguchi, Yu Aoi Director: Yoshihiro Fukagawa
2.A Boy and his Samurai, ちょんまげぷりん, 2010
A comedy featuring time travel, samurais and pudding, A Boy and his Samurai, is based on the original manga by Gen Araki. The story follows a time traveling Edo-era samurai by the name of Yasubei Kijima who finds himself in modern day Japan where he meets a young boy named Tomoya and his single working mother Hiroko. Lacking the awareness of how to conduct himself in today’s Japan, Yasubei relies on the help of Hiroko and Tomoya for guidance. In exchange, the samurai offers to lighten Hiroko’s parenting load and fulfill the ‘father’ role in Tomoya’s life.
Attempting to make desserts for Tomoya, Yasubei accidentally finds a hidden skill he never knew he possessed and becomes a popular pastry chef with a special talent for producing mouthwatering pudding. Known as ‘purin’ in Japan, pudding is incredibly popular. More like a cold custard flan than the US version of pudding, ‘purin’ is a dessert staple, one that brings many Japanese people back to their childhood, a little like their own mini time travel experience.
The film is jam-packed with sincerely heartwarming moments, silly but hilarious fish out of water scenes and an unforgettable message about the importance of family. A Boy and his Samurai is like Yasubei himself — unconventional but filled with sweet surprises.
Main cast: Ryo Nishikido, Rie Tomosaka and Fuku Suzuki Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura
3. It All Began When I Met You, すべては君に逢えたから, 2013
『It All Began When I Met You』
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©2013 ”IT ALL BEGAN WHEN I MET YOU” FILM PARTNERS
If there were one film that could be described as the Japanese version of Love Actually it would be this. It All Began When I Met You is a multi-plot film about love, loss, family and the inexplicable magic of the Christmas season — as celebrated in Japan.
Though Japan doesn’t have the Christmas traditions of many western countries, it’s fair to say that the nation has fully embraced the holiday over the past decades. What’s rather special about the Japanese Christmas is the way the country has reinvented and created their own unique ways to celebrate this festive season. You could argue that for this nation whose Christian population ranks rather low, Christmas is a lot more about romance and celebration than its classically religious roots.
One of the most unique ways the country enjoys Christmas is with their culinary choices: there’s the famous KFC Christmas tradition that raises eyebrows and ignites chuckles from other countries, and there is also the Christmas cake. Unlike the dense, fruit-based western Christmas cake, the Japanese version is a light fluffy sponge cake covered in sweet white cream and topped with ruby red strawberries.
It All Began When I Met You is an insightful and engaging look at how different people celebrate Christmas here in Japan.
Main cast: Hiroshi Tamaki, Masahiro Higashide Director: Katsuhide Motoki
4.Cherry Pie, チェリーパイ, 2006
© Cherry Pie Project
Cherry Pie follows the story of Tsugumi, a young and ambitious chef who realizes that she can no longer successfully produce her small store’s trademark cherry pie. The pie for her is not only a dessert which attracts customers to the store, but also the only memory of the man she loved but lost to an unfortunate accident, a senior chef at the store. Following his passing, the more she attempts to imitate his signature dessert, the more she finds herself unable to do so. Until an unexpected change takes place and turns things around for her and the store.
While over the past decades Japan has been continuously embracing foreign foods and culture, especially from the the U.S. and Europe, cherry pie is one dessert that has never really taken off in terms of popularity. However, our protagonist’s story is an illustration of the essence of craftsmanship in Japan: without pursuit of popularity, one dedicates years of tireless work to bring out the best taste of a product. So just like cherry pies, some desserts from your countries that may not be yet known in Japan may one day become someone’s signature treats — as long as there is a dedicated, passionate chef like Tsugumi to introduce their best taste.
Main cast: Keiko Kitagawa, Noriko Eguchi Director: Haruo Inoue
As evident from these four movies, desserts in Japan are never considered just an end of a meal. Sweets making here is believed to be an art that makes people happier and a profession that requires years of training, struggles and hardworking in the name of a single product. The movies introduced in this story are memorable not only for the many scenes that will make you crave for sweets, but also due to their reflection on the Japanese culture of persistency, continuity and making something for the sake of others’ happiness.