Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Japanese life lesson

I saw a documentary called "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."

Jiro-san is a 3 star Michelin rated sushi chef. His restaurant Sukiyabashi has ten seats and people reserve even up to a year in advance. One month is the minimum recommended.

The sushi even on film looks wonderful. The 3 Michelin stars are for his consistent brilliance within great simplicity. They serve sushi and nothing but. No appetizers, no drinks. The tab is usually about $300 per person. And every person who has eaten there says it is worth it.

But what is equally amazing about the film is how the 85 year old Jiro lives his life and has always lived it. A stickler for routine, he takes the same train to work everyday, gets off at the same place if he can. He works almost every single day of the year. Only funerals are considered emergencies. He lives, eats and breathes sushi. No...great sushi.

Fending for himself from the age of 10, Jiso philosophizes--"Pick a trade, make sure you fall in love with it, and slowly master it, working on it everyday. Success is inevitable. Better yourself at what you do by aiming higher everyday."

The film then shows how he has done exactly that with sushi. Nothing but the best ingredients from the best suppliers who in turn source the best. Apprentices who have to learn how to squeeze a hot towel for the customers for months before they can even get a chance to touch the fish. It's a tough job few stay in for long. And when they do they stay for at least a decade before going off on their own.

The dedication and passion for their work and their food is palpable, inspiring.

I have always been a Japan-o-phile. Who isn't?

Their minimalism, their food, their discipline, their bordering on unrealistic work ethic. This film is a soft look at that very philosophy which has made Japan a great nation. Such a small country that has suffered so much in past years but filled with people like Jiro-san, they bounce back every time stronger and stronger.

All this has filled me with such awe...not to mention a whole lot of hunger for some fabulous sushi....