The Taste of Tea will make you smile, the definition of a movie sending the audience home happy. A serene slice of life family tale, charming in its innocence. The Japanese film promotes a positive message from young to old that it’s never too late to go after what you desire in life.
This movie review for The Taste of Tea contains spoilers.
The Taste of Tea is a real gem, a lost emerald newly mined out and returned to surface. Modern films have been pushing the envelope more and more towards fully realized dystopia & pessimism. But The Taste of Tea embraces that not everything about reality is always negative.The Japanese picture tells multiple stories simultaneously, all intertwined among one family. The Haruno family.
The Taste of Tea: 5 Best Scenes
1) Romance is a game of ‘Go’
The lead tale is teenager Hajime Haruno’s quest to win over his crush and fellow classmate Aoi Suzuishi. Hajime Haruno who’s played by actor Takahiro Satô, is quiet, shy, and determined to act on his crush… Unlike his last one. Hajime never told his last crush how he felt before she moved away… And this fact haunts him. Aoi Suzuishi who’s played by actress Anna Tsuchiya, is overheard by Hajime to be joining the school’s local ‘Go’ gaming club. A game Hajime had seemingly been playing against his father Nobuo Haruno [Tomokazu Miura] for years!
Like any highschooler hit by Cupid’s arrow, Hajime is elated by the fact that he might actually have a chance with Aoi! He spends much of Director Katsuhito Ishii’s film reading every single book about ‘Go’ he can get his hands on at the library. Hajime challenges his father and uncle Ayano Haruno [Tadanobu Asano] to ‘Go’ contests every day. Eventually, he’s invited to join the same school club, which he acts reluctant to accept. Fearing his fantasy of winning over Aoi might evaporate in real life.
After a couple of fruitless days at the club, gazing at Aoi from a distance, it finally happens… Aoi Suzuishi plays Hajime Haruno one-on-one alone. Hajime tells her, ‘I’ve dreamed to be able to play you like this,’ and she smiles, responding positively. ‘Then let’s play everyday!’ It’s such an endearing, innocent, happy moment.
Hajime then walks Aoi home in the rain and can’t stop smiling in genuine, pure bliss. Like his father says later on the train ride home, ‘Good day today?’ The film later concludes with Aoi and Hajime playing ‘Go’ together. Great on-screen chemistry between Anna Tsuchiya and Takahiro Satô. Anna Tsuchiya perfectly encompasses the mysterious new student as Aoi Suzuishi.
Everything simply works out. No one tries to ‘steal’ Aoi away from Hajime, no big crushing disappointment or rejection. Hajime worked towards impressing his crush and she responded positively in kind. A passion for a hobby brought them together!
2) Ayano Haruno’s childhood story
Tadanobu Asano plays uncle Ayano Haruno in The Taste of Tea and tells a strange, humorous childhood tale. He reminisces about collecting chicken eggs in the forest as a child and suddenly needing to go to the bathroom. Ayano finds a massive egg stuck in the ground, and of all places, does his business there… But it wasn’t an egg at all, it was a buried skull!
Ayano then tells of a tattooed man played by Susumu Terajima who randomly appears and stares at him. Eventually he simply gets used to it. While doing a school gymnastics routine on a bar, the tattooed man disappears. In reality, detectives had found the skull and removed Ayano’s ‘work’ off the skull, thus removing the curse.
Ayano’s niece Sachiko Haruno is inspired by the story. As she always see a larger version of her staring back. Sachiko feels if she does the same gymnastics bar routine, it will stop happening. Fun fact: Actor Tadanobu Asano who does a great job in this film will be playing Raiden in 2021’s Mortal Kombat movie. Tadanobu Asano’s smooth, laid back way of telling a story is what makes him stand out early on in the film.
3) Grandpa Akira Todoroki’s drawings
Tatsuya Gashûin is excellent as the grandfather of the Haruno family in The Taste of Tea. Hilarious, charismatic, and conveys most of his work with strong physical body langauge. Three moments stand out: when he sings ‘why are you a triangle?’ to his granddaugther, when he playfights with his grandson, and when he does manga action poses for artists Yoshiko Haruno. One of The Taste of Tea’s best scenes is right after Akira Todoroki passes and they unlock his room… Only to find full animated picture books of their struggles.
One of them shows granddaughter Sachiko attempting her gymnastics move on the bar, and succeeding. In real life, he’d viewed his granddaughter not quite getting over the bar. So this greatly motivates her. It’s a touching scene for the entire Haruno family. An exemplary illustration of Japanese cinema.
4) Sachiko Haruno overcomes her own judgement
Sachiko finally manages to do a full flip on a playground bar at the end of The Taste of Tea. Just like her grandpa envisioned she would in his art. A sunflower similar to the one in his drawing covers all of earth as the sky turns a golden hue. The last shot in The Taste of Tea is of a beaming, smiling Sachiko leaving the playground in grand accomplishment.
5) Yoshiko Haruno rediscovers talent as animator
After being a mother & homemaker for many years, Yoshiko Haruno returns to the world of anime. She presents her animated film during a class showcase based on grandpa Akira Todoroki’s poses to great fanfare. Yoshiko receives a standing ovation from the class that makes her tear up.
In another endearing moment in
Bonus: Cosplaying on the train
There is a fun moment when two anime cosplayers on the train ponder if wearing their costumes early was a good idea. The idea was to make it easier for them to carry the costumes by actively wearing them… But one of them wonders if they might look strange!
Visual, Audio minimalism:
There is something immensely peaceful about the realistic minimalism of The Taste of Tea. Perhaps, the most memorable visual is of a Japanese Cherry blossom tree at the start of the movie. Quite frankly, after viewing the vast green country land, you really want to visit. The Taste of Tea takes place in Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture and it’s certainly now on the destination list for this reviewer. The film is a relaxing watch.
Conclusion: A serene journey with everlasting mementos.
Where to buy The Taste of Tea Blu-ray:
Third Window Films’ The Taste of Tea Blu-ray is available to buy on Amazon. This Japanese film is subtitled in English.
Disclosure: A review copy of The Taste of Tea was provided to The Natural Aristocrat® from Third Window Films. TheNaturalAristocrat.com is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program. An affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
The Taste of Tea Trailer
Watch The Taste of Tea movie trailer above!
“The Haruno family is a five-piece clan living the simple life in Japan. The summer sun shining gently down, this quiet quintet is transformed into a six-piece when urban-dwelling uncle Ayano (Tadanobu Asano), a successful music producer, arrives to visit his family and confront his feelings for the ex-girlfriend who married another man after Ayano moved to the city.
As the lazy days pass by, each member of the family is followed in a series of episodic vignettes.”
The film is known overseas as ‘Cha no aji’ to Japanese cinema goers. The Taste of Tea was originally released in 2004 prior to a domestic Blu-ray & Digital release by Third Window Films on October 5, 2020.
Visit ThirdWindowFilms.com for more information about The Taste of Tea!
The Taste of Tea movie awards:
Official Selection – 2004, Cannes Film Festival
Audience Award – 2004, Entrevues Film Festival
Grand Prix – 2004, Entrevues Film Festival
Best Feature Film – 2004, Hawaii International Film Festival
Best New Actress (Anna Tsuchiya) – 2004, Hochi Film Awards
Orient Express Award – 2004, Sitges Film Festival
Audience Award – 2005, Dejima Japanese Film Festival
Best Asian Film – 2005, Fantasia Film Festival
Fantasia Ground-Breaker Award – 2005, Fantasia Film Festival
Audience Award – 2005, New York Asian Film Festival
Best New Actress (Anna Tsuchiya) – 2005 Kinema Junpo Awards
New Talent Award (Anna Tsuchiya) – 2005, Mainichi Film Award
Festival Prize – 2005, Yokohama Film Festival
– Fan of Japanese cinema? Check out one of our recent Japanese movie reviews!
– The Natural Aristocrat® covers both classic Japanese films and modern releases alike.