There’s an amazing emotional scene in this movie where the eponymous Jiro breaks down in his kitchen and starts sobbing uncontrollably.
“What have I done? I wasted my whole life, I was never there for my sons and wife. All because of these stinking fish!”
Alas, there isn’t such a scene.
I really wanted to like this movie.
It’s a documentary about the best sushi-chef in the world; 85-year-old Jiro Ono and it combines three of my favorite things: documentaries, food and crazy Japanese people, but it still left me as cold as a tuna in the Tokyo fish market.
Jiro runs a tiny sushi-bar with a total capacity of 10 seats and a ranking of 3 Michelin stars.
A meal there will be over in 15-30 minutes depending on how fast an eater you are, will consist of about 20 bits of nigiri and will set you back at least 300$.
Reservations are a month in advance as it’s widely acknowledged to be the best place for sushi on the planet.
So how does he do it?
Unfortunately there is no great mystery involved.
All it takes is an extraordinary amount of strictness and attention to detail at the cost of everything else.
Step 1: get the best and freshest fish and seafood from the market.
Step 2: painstakingly prepare and serve it.
I was expecting some great insights and shows of extreme dexterity with a blade but got neither.
The only thing I learned from the documentary is that in order for octopus to be tender, you have to massage it for 45 minutes, I wonder if Japanese chefs have octopus-masseur on their CV.
I wanted to like this, but it’s impossible due to the protagonist.
The main problem I have with Mr Ono is this.
He seems like a nice positive guy and all, but he’s the reason the USA had to drop two nuclear bombs on Japan to make it surrender.
Loyalty to your work or your emperor is fine, but it shouldn’t take precedence over everything else, especially not your family.
He has two middle-aged sons who are both sushi masters even though they wanted to do something else.
We don’t know what their hopes and dreams were, or if there were any emotional scenes back home.
They said they didn’t want to follow in his footsteps.
He wanted them to follow in his footsteps.
They followed in his footsteps.
And that’s all she wrote.
In another funny/sad anecdote, his two sons joke about the time they found their dad resting and alarmed their mom that there was a strange man sleeping in her bed.
When you go to work at 5 in the morning and come back after 10 pm for years on end and also refuse to take vacations then why bother fathering children in the first place?
I would have liked to hear what the wife and mother thought about the arrangement, but neither she or the sons’ wives get to speak in the movie.
Due to having warm hands, women have no part in Japanese sushi making and apparently have no say in it either.
Make no mistake, I admire the craftsmanship and dedication it takes to achieve this sushi that borders on perfection, but in the end I’m gladder that I can enjoy such delicacies without living a single-minded life like Jiro Ono.
IMHO he should have taken a cue from the Italians.
Italians appreciate and celebrate food as much as any nation, but they also know what’s truly important.
As Don Corleone said:
a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.