DOCUMENTARY; 1hr 21min (Japanese with subtitles)
DIRECTED BY: David Gelb
Raw talent: from left, Jiro and Yoshikazu
With prices from 30,000 yen ($358) per head, Jiro Ono’s Tokyo sushi restaurant isn’t cheap. Nor is the 10-seat basement cubbyhole anything related to flash. But the sushi — gleaming, uncluttered, impeccable — is so sensational that the Michelin Guide awarded it three stars, and at age 85, when this unassuming inside story was shot in 2011, the cheery Jiro has no plans of slowing down. Retire? He’d be bored to death!
This can’t be easy for his forbearing son, Yoshikazu. In Japanese tradition, the elder son succeeds his father in business. So until Jiro chooses to bow out, Yoshikazu, now 50-plus, must bide his time at the kitchen bench, where the ceaseless focus, under its tireless, exacting overseer, is on ever-elusive perfection.
Jiro’s rigorous ways are not for everyone. But for shokunin, or craftsmen, life’s chief purpose is self-improvement. Repetitive work is the flame that sustains them in a quiet state of dedicated bliss whose passion and exactitude are quintessentially Japanese. “We are always trying to reach the top,” Jiro explains. “But no one knows where the top is.”