Akanezora, translated as Beyond the Crimson Sky, is a beautiful film produced last year in Japan. I would never have even heard about it if I hadn't been on a Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo, during which the film was shown. Imagine, an epic period piece about tofu! How could I not love it? I am not ashamed to admit that I wept (and it wasn't just the jetlag).
The story takes place in mid-18th century Edo (what is now Tokyo). Only in Japan could such a story be told, a land where tofu is made fresh and consumed the same day, where tofu is not just an art, but a way of life.
The film concerns a young tofu-maker from Kyoto who settles in Edo and is befriended by a young woman whom he eventually marries. Oh, the trouble they get into! Local tofu-makers don't appreciate the competition! The palates of the clientele are both shocked and titillated by the arrival of Kyoto-style tofu (it's subtly different)! The eldest son of the shopkeeper does not want to follow in his father's footsteps! Intrigue ensues and even murder!
Having made soy milk and tofu myself, I enjoyed watching these being made in the traditional manner, using big kettles of hammered metal, and wooden barrels and bamboo tools. The best part was watching the customers taste the tofu - served plain in a carved bowl - and appreciate its delicate flavor. Not one customer uttered that old American trope: "Tofu has no taste and only absorbs the flavor of what it's cooked with."
If you can find this movie on DVD, you'll never think of tofu the same way again.