‘Takano Tofu’: Cranky craftsman serves up heartwarming drama

Yasujiro Ozu famously called himself a “tofu maker,” turning out movie after thematically and stylistically similar movie the way makers of the humble soybean-based staple turn out block after indistinguishable block. Of course, the director of “Late Spring” (1949) and “Tokyo Story” (1953) was an artist of the first rank, but the protagonist in Mitsuhiro Mihara’s heartwarming drama “Takano Tofu” is no drudge mass-producing tofu for supermarket shelves.

Tatsuo Takano, played by Tatsuya Fuji, is a dedicated craftsman, and his tofu is celebrated as the best in his hometown of Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, and its environs. Though he sells his tofu to a local supermarket, he also runs a shop with his daughter Haru (Kumiko Aso) serving loyal customers.

Stubborn and set in his ways, Tatsuo is a type familiar from innumerable Japanese movies and TV dramas, one nearly always framed as loveable, no matter how much grief he inflicts. Fuji — the star of Nagisa Oshima’s notorious X-rated drama “In the Realm of Senses” (1976) — has made a late-career specialty of playing grumpy old men, including the photographer in Mihara’s 2004 “Photo Album of the Village” and the Chinese chef in his 2008 “Flavor of Happiness,” making “Takano Tofu” the third in a cranky craftsman trilogy.


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