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Jiro Dreams of Sushi


Jiro poster

If given the ultimatum to choose three types of food for the rest of your life, what would they be? I love cheese and bread, but I’d have to choose Japanese, Indian, and Thai. I think I’d be happy swapping between those three for the rest of my hypothetical, regulated life. Watching Jiro Ono carefully place delectable slices of fish on the counter in Jiro Dreams of Sushi only validates my decision.

Grade:

A-

Nestled in the basement of an office building in Tokyo, Jiro and his son, Yoshikazu, prepare what has been dubbed as the best sushi in the world. Jiro only serves sushi; that’s it. No appetizers, no dessert, no frills. He also doesn’t allow walk-ins. Only reservations, with meals starting at ¥30,000 and the menu for the night is chosen at his discretion depending on the fish his son purchased for the day. This exclusivity and dedication to the craft landed Jiro on the list of Michelin’s three-star restaurants.

But, his dedication goes even beyond that. Jiro is 85 and shows no willingness to slow down; actually, he believes the moment he retires he’ll either die or be kicked out of the house from sheer boredom. He has spent so much time preparing and perfecting his craft—not taking any time off and detesting holidays—that he even, as the title suggests, dreams of sushi.

jiro 1

The most interesting aspect of this subtle documentary is how in tune with the Japanese culture it is. From Jiro’s simplistic presentation of his sushi to the slow-motion artistic camera angles, the entire film deftly presents the clean, observant nature the Japanese have so carefully perfected. Additionally, Jiro’s tireless work ethic and strict adherence to routine promote the Japanese business lifestyle.

The emphasis on familial tradition is ripe here as well. We see how loyal Yoshikazu has been, even though he is already 50 and still considered an apprentice. The younger son left many years ago to open his own sushi restaurant that has been received positively, but remains a step below Jiro’s. The question remains, and will remain, about the future of the little restaurant when Jiro passes away. Will Yoshikazu be able to keep the business afloat without his father’s name bringing customers?

jiro 2

The film tries to allay any fears of this nature by pointing out how expertly Jiro has trained his apprentices. By now, he does very little in the preparation process, but still receives all of the credit. The idea of keeping the business in family is important to Jiro, but he is so infatuated with his work that he is unwilling to hand over the keys just yet.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is slow and at times relatively tedious, even with a run time of 81 minutes. Each scene is so deliberate that you are either salivating over the sushi, or waiting to watch him make more. It is certainly intriguing to see the apprentices work and watch Yoshikazu as he vies for his father’s approval. Be forewarned of the perils of watching this when hungry, you will regret it. Jiro certainly provides an enlightening look into one of the world’s hidden gems.

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    • Dlh
    • June 28th, 2013

    There seems to a significant and developing subculture around sushi — books, movies, special travel shows. This movie may have exceeded Bourdain’s almost sexual enjoyment of the art of this special cuisine. Thanks

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