Sushi and pizza have become more and more comparable over the years; People want easy access to it, they want it cheap, and oftentimes, it’s not all that good. Cold, day-old store sushi is not something I encourage one to seek out and California rolls make me cringe. However, I have had my moments of weakness. When I was in college, I would sometimes stoop so low as to pick up a pre-packaged option from Temple’s Student Center. It was shameful and I’d squirrel away after swiping my meal card to eat the stiff rice and second rate fish in my dorm before my roommate came home.
However, now I have some standards and only go for sushi made in restaurants that don’t seem like they’ll give me food poisoning. Still, after watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I can’t help but think I am miles away from the really good stuff. This study into one man and his profession not only focuses on a passion for food, but also provides an insight into the Japanese mentality. The movie is captivating, beautiful, and manages to be informational at the same time; it’s the holy trinity of foodie films.
Number one lesson to take away after seeing the opening credits roll: fresh is not something on which to compromise. Jiro isn’t buying fish from Restaurant Depot, but instead from the markets featuring the freshest catches. More importantly, if the best tuna has already been scooped up, the restaurant won’t serve tuna that day. This master is uncompromising. It’s all about quality and doing things with care, not making money. This isn’t a factory meant to churn out mediocre content and bring in big bucks, it’s a restaurant that intends to create a delicious, unforgettable experience through thoughtfulness. Yet, through that dedication to making the best sushi, Jiro is undoubtedly making a nice chunk of money.
While Jiro is the name on everyone’s mind and this movie is focused on him, the filmmakers also make it clear that this is not a one man operation. Now that this Japanese master is no longer a young man, he cannot keep up with the demands of the restaurant alone. He’s not the only one buying supplies, his apprentices spend their time creating the perfect rice, and his son is occasionally the one behind the counter bringing the Jiro experience to life. Jiro wants to pass on the art of sushi making, not just make a name for himself as a master. Arguably, the former is more important than the latter as his willingness to teach is what will lead to a better quality of sushi for all.
Even though the story being told here is an important one, and one which millennials supporting the local movement could easily latch on, the visuals are a reason alone to stream this movie. Long shots of whole fish in markets, the Michelin award ceremony, and the care that is taken when a piece of fish is placed before a customer all bring viewers right into the action. Sure, it’s not the action of an Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster, but it is an action that I want to be a part of all the same.
For those of you who can’t stand subtitles or want something quick and satisfying, this is not the right choice. Much like the time Jiro takes to create an experience at his restaurant, the filmmakers take the same amount of time to do the man and his craft justice. Anything else would cheapen the movie.
Whether or not you’re a sushi devotee, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a gorgeous glimpse into one man’s dedication to his job. I can’t think of many people who love what they do this much, but this gives me a bit of hope for my future. If I were to go to work feeling half as good as Jiro, I think I’d be a pretty happy camper.