Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
When I go out for sushi, I don’t often think about the time and effort taken to prepare each piece – but then I’ve never been to Jiro’s.
Japanese chef Jiro Ono is THE best sushi chef in the world. Jiro Dreams of Suhi is a glimpse into his life, as he manages his restaurant (called Sukiyabashi Jiro) and teaches his sons the art of sushi. Director David Gelb originally set out to make a film about sushi, but he found Jiro’s story so compelling that the doc changed into a character piece. Jiro is a stubborn perfectionist with traditional views, and the film brings all his qualities (good and bad) to light. The title of the film reflects Jiro’s passion for his craft, and the fact that he’s so influenced by his work he literally dreams of sushi. Unfortunately for Jiro’s sons, their father’s dreams are pushed onto them, and they’re expected to take over the family business, like it or not. I found it very disheartening that Jiro’s ‘dreams’ would be so strong that he would prevent his sons from going to College, making them work in his restaurant instead (but then I don’t know much about Japanese traditions of inheritance). The film glossed over this fact in part of the oldest son’s interview. The son, Yoshikazu, wanted to be a pilot or a race car driver, but is now heir to Jiro’s sushi dynasty. I think it would have been interesting to hear more about the sons and their sacrifices for their father’s ‘dreams of sushi’; Gelb missed an opportunity to explore this further.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is beautifully shot (Gelb was also the cinematographer), and the close ups of rice and raw fish were so well done that they really displayed sushi as an art. At one point in the film, Jiro’s sushi courses are compared to a musical score, with each piece flavourful, and hitting the right note with hungry customers. That being said, I found the music in the documentary itself at times off putting. Only classical music was used, which initially worked well with the artsy shots, but at times it became too much. The intention may have been to make the audience appreciate Jiro’s love of sushi, but there’s only so much one can feel emotionally about raw fish (no matter the score).
I liked that Jiro Dreams of Sushi touched on the topic of over fishing to feed the growing popularity of sushi around the world. The impact of sushi on over fishing and vice versa has made some sushi recipes extinct at Jiro’s, which is sad, but inevitable today (me, being cynical again). When Jiro first started in the business over 75 years ago a lot of what’s on his menu today didn’t exist, and he’s had to invent a lot. And in the early days, sushi in Japan was served in street carts – although I don’t know how much I trust raw fish as street meat (yikes). This doc opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know, and (obviously) made me hungry for some good sushi. I’ve put ‘Go to Jiro’s’ on my bucket list, and hopefully one day I’ll get there. I would recommend this film for anyone who’s ever dreamt of sushi, and wanted to visit an authentic restaurant in Japan but couldn’t afford the airfare.
Gallery of Images from Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Watch the Jiro Dreams of Sushi Trailer