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COME BACK ANYTIME presents a window into the lives of self-taught Japanese ramen master Masamoto Ueda and his wife Kazuko, who have run their tiny Tokyo ramen shop, Bizentei for more than 40 years. Ueda serves his legendary ramen to scores of devoted customers who have joined him over the decades in making the restaurant an intimate place of community. For Ueda, it’s more than just a livelihood, but his life. And his die-hard regulars are more than just customers, but true friends. On the weekends, he leads eclectic groups of regulars on seasonal pilgrimages across the Japanese countryside, where they forage, harvest, and share local produce, such as pears, bamboo shoots, rice, and wild mountain yams. Periodic visits with the Uedas at home gradually reveal their personal history and the history of their beloved restaurant. In the lively nighttime hours, we revel with the regulars, while also hearing their intimate testimonials as they each sit alone in the restaurant during the quiet hours. One describes how Ueda provided comfort and solace when she frequented Bizentei during a time of great personal grief and loss. A married couple tell of how they met at the restaurant thanks to Ueda, who played subtle matchmaker, and how their children know him only as Grandpa. As the year progresses, season by season, we eventually hear how the Uedas and their customers feel about the inevitability that the master will retire someday and, because he desires no heir or apprentice, Bizentei and all that it represents will exist no more. Acknowledging the reality that nothing lasts forever, they resolve to make the best of what time remains and to truly appreciate this special place, this uniquely delicious, soul-nourishing soup, and this special community of friends, for as long as they can.

2021 • Japan • 81 min