This is my entry for “J” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Other “J” documentaries I’ve reviewed include Jane.
Title: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Release Date: June 11, 2001
Director: David Gelb
Production Company: Magnolia Pictures
I am not interested in sushi, or fine dining, or tv/movies about cooking, so I strongly resisted watching this film. But it was hard to find any other “J” documentaries that were well-regarded. This film documents Jiro Ono, at the time an 85-year-old sushi master who owns the Tokyo restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro. Jiro focuses on the traditional sushi practices of making fresh pieces for each customer and presenting them on a counter.
The restaurant is in a basement adjacent to a subway station and has only 10 counter stools. A meal at Sukiyabashi Jiro can be completed in 15-30 minutes. Nevertheless it has received the coveted three stars from Michelin, requires reservations months in advance, and the 20-piece tasting menu costs ¥30,000 (equivalent to $270 in US dollars at the time of writing). Jiro is presented as fulfilling the stereotypes of a Japanese person who is a reserved workaholic and perfectionist with his whole life focused on making better sushi. Very little of his personal life is revealed, and he mentions that when he sleeps he literally dreams of sushi.
Jiro’s elder son Yoshikazu works in the restaurant and is slated to take it over from Jiro (and since Jiro will likely never retire it will most likely be after his death). Yoshikazu goes to fish market to meet with the wholesalers who are dedicated to the different types of fish and sea life that Jiro can serve. Yoshikazu and a team of apprentices do much of the food preparation at this point, although Jiro still presents the sushi for the customers to eat and watches as they do so. This is said to be an intimidating experience by many people interviewed. Jiro’s younger son Takashi operates a mirror-image restaurant in another part of Tokyo. This restaurant received only two Michelin stars but is also said to be a more relaxed experience.
Many shots in the film focus intensely on food preparation at the restaurant and the fish market. Close-ups of seaweed being heated over an open flame, fishing getting chopped, and the shaping of a perfect portion of sushi (painted with a brush of soy sauce at the last moment) are strangely mesmerizing.
What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:
At my age I should know that something I don’t want to do is probably going to be something that’s pleasantly surprising. While I still have no interest in sushi or fine dining, I did enjoy the movie. What I liked best about the documentary is that it is an appreciation of craft. We live in an age where entrepreneurship is celebrated and people who do the same thing day after day are belittled. While Jiro is always trying to make his sushi better, he primarily does so by using the same practices he’s worked on throughout his life. And he’s certainly not trying to do anything trendy.
If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:
Well, if you really enjoy this movie, then you may just want to go Tokyo and at Sukiyabashi Jiro. The website has detailed instructions of what you need to do to prepare, and is a fascinating read in itself.
2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:
- 2016: A journey through my neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in Boston.
- 2017: A spontaneous photograph each day.
- 2018: Watched and reviewed documentary movies.
And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:
- Book Reviews
- Movie Reviews
- Beer Reviews
- Music Reviews and Writing
- City Stories, expository writing about my experiences in various cities
And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.