It might seem strange to think that you’d need an entire day to raise awareness about something so seemingly ordinary as tea. Once exotic, it’s now the very definition of everyday. But some things are worth celebrating precisely because of their ordinariness.
Of the golden age Japanese directors, Yasujiro Ozu was perhaps the keenest on finding the beauty in the everyday. In his later years, he made a habit of inserting a little red teapot into the corner of a frame, almost as an artist’s signature. After all, what symbolises the warmth of a family home better than a nice cup of tea?
It’s the flavour of green tea over rice that eventually provokes a minor miracle reconciling a previously unhappy couple in Ozu’s 1952 marital drama of the same name. Far from the elegance of a traditional tea ceremony, the humble ochazuke from which the film takes its title, The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice, is comfort food of the highest order. It’s a way of brightening up leftover rice – a treat that’s unexciting yet homely, wholesome and warm.
Unexciting had been the way Taeko (Michiyo Kogure) viewed her dull yet dependable husband Mokichi (Shin Saburi), believing him to be unsophisticated in his preference for cheap cigarettes, third class rail travel, and pouring tea over his rice. Forced apart and then reunited by a quirk of fate, the couple find themselves together late at night in the kitchen, not wanting to wake the maid, but hungry for a midnight snack.
Preparing the dish with her husband, Taeko comes to a new appreciation of both the meal and the man, realising that sometimes homely, wholesome and warm is exactly what you need. Happiness without ceremony, like the flavour of green tea over rice.
The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice is available now on Blu-ray/DVD and to stream or buy via iTunes and Amazon Prime.