Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a foodist’s wet dream. The documentary features more than an hour of breathtaking shots of raw fish, sliced and prepared so meticulously that it makes all the sushi you’ve ever consumed seem like worthless mush. It’s truly glorious. It is also a document of one man’s peerless skill and dedication to craft — and the combination of beautiful cinematography and sheer talent is utterly absorbing.
At the center of the documentary is the head chef and revered octogenarian Jiro Ono, and the film is just as much an homage to his sushi as it is a testament and record of his notoriously extreme work ethic. Jiro’s discipline is unmatched, bordering on obsessive. His search for perfection boils down to minute details: apprentices must undergo ten years of training, rice needs to be cooked under specific pressure, fish must be marinated for a specific period of time, octopus needs to be massaged for exactly 40-50 minutes, and the list goes on. The immaculate results of this dedication haven’t gone unnoticed: Jiro is the first sushi chef in the world to receive three Michelin stars, and his restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, is considered to be one of the best in the entire world.
But is Jiro’s dedication truly worth it? He takes no breaks, except when there is a funeral. He admits he missed a large chunk of his children’s lives but feels as if he’s making amends by teaching them his trade. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing. Repetition and constant improvement is at the epicenter of Jiro’s philosophy and properly aligns with stereotypical Asian work values — where career is often put ahead of private life. And there’s no doubt that Jiro is in love with his occupation — something that’s as necessary as it is heartening.
For Jiro, personal matters are secondary; his sushi restaurant isn’t just his job — it’s an extension of who he is, and he will continue to work until his body stops functioning. Question is: is this a healthy way to live? Have you been to Sukiyabashi Jiro, and was it worth the hype (or the price of a flight to Tokyo)? How much of Jiro’s work ethic is his individual drive and how much do you think is cultural? Tell us what you think, and what you thought of the documentary, in the comments below.
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