Food Dreams

Review of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Directed by David Gelb


I love sushi, but I don’t dream of it. Jiro does. The documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi examines the life and art of Jiro Ono, who is hailed as the world’s best sushi shokunin.

The word Japanese word shokunin literally means ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan,’ but it’s pregnant with much weightier meaning that verges on public service, whereby the shokunin is conscious of the great role he plays in society by carrying out the duties of his trade.  This tells you the essence of the film. Jiro understands his sushi to transcend merely making a livelihood through a successful restaurant business. It is his mission to continue the quest to perfect the art of sushi.

The methodical day-in-day-out routine of Jiro, coupled with modernist anthems from Philip Glass, distill the cultural essence of Japan and the almost mechanical drive to attain flawlessness.

Watching Jiro at work is fascinating in and of itself. Who knew that making sushi could be such a difficult endeavor that is vastly beyond slapping raw fish on really good rice. To eat at his restaurant, the Michelin three-starred Sukiyabashi Jiro, you need to book a reservation a month in advance. There is limited seating and the menu is selected by Jiro, with no other options. And each piece placed in front of the customer makes you salivate, even if you’re just seeing it on the screen. The serving itself is faultless, with each piece of sushi delivered so that the tastes complement each other and everyone finishes eating at the same time—like a symphony.

It’s hard to explain how a film about an old Japanese man making sushi can have such emotional depth and so capture an audience’s imagination. You have to watch it for yourself. I love watching well-made documentaries, and this makes it to my top ten list.

All this to say, the Christian response is simple. Praise God for good food! And praise Him for gifting people who have a passion for the culinary arts. I couldn’t help but think how we are just surrounded by beauty, from the canvass of landscapes to the very food we eat.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

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