To say that the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is not about sushi, may appear to be a provocative (and possibly ridiculous) position at first but if you’ll indulge my explanation, I’d like to clarify.
In a world of convenient consumerism, mass production and disposable commodities there are few stories of true dedication to a cause that remind us that once, honesty and integrity were virtues by which men were measured. Today, integrity can be bought and notoriety can be manufactured and without meaning to sound melodramatic, complacency in the work place seems to be a widespread infliction.
Jiro, our titular subject, is an 85-year old man who has dedicated his life to sushi, and serves the traditional Japanese dish from his humble 10-seat restaurant in the bowels of a metro station. It’s easy to miss the secretive little restaurant, and nothing on the outside distinguishes it as special.
However, Jiro’s little shack is the only sushi restaurant in the world to achieve 3 Michelin stars, and a meal there will cost you upwards of thirty-thousand yen and potentially lasting only 15 minutes. The humble shokunin has been perfecting his art for 65 years, and the documentary uncovers and explores his, what we’ll affectionately call obsession, with his work.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi, as the title suggests, is about ambition, but not as we know it. Where much of the Western world measures success and achievements in currency, Jiro aspires to one thing only, complete perfection and mastering of his craft, sushi. He doesn’t dream of franchises, or awards (though he has plenty) but only in bettering himself, this of course affects his own personal reputation and legacy, but this is merely an additional benefit. Jiro works for the love of sushi.
While this fascinating documentary does provide some insight in to the process of sushi, it really is only the vehicle for the real focus of the story. It’s a moralistic tale that serves to remind us that personal fulfilment can come from immaterial things, and that hard work and integrity can still thrive in today’s society. Of course, we are talking about two different societies, and perhaps we can see a western counterpart in Steve Jobs and his infatuation with design and the user experience. The capitalistic tendencies of Jobs however bears no resemblance to Jiro’s efforts, whose only concession to expansion is a second restaurant for his younger son who would otherwise, inherit nothing.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a humbling watch and forces a degree of introspection and repositioning of your own values. For those that enjoy sushi, of course be prepared for some unabashed cinematic food porn that will send you straight to the nearest sushi restaurant moments after, and a wonderful insight in to the process and background behind these amazing dishes.
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