Japanese food, to me, is perfection.
I’ve never seen a culture that embraces a borderline overzealousness towards their cuisine, elevating it to a national treasure. And one of the most ubiquitous dishes that had crossed borders and become a food staple across the globe, is of course, sushi.
In preparation for my impending trip to Osaka and Kyoto, I decided to watch “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” for inspiration, and to get myself into the mood. Although the setting for this story was based in Tokyo, but I suspect that I will be well fed anywhere in the Japan.
Not many people truly had sushi, and I’m not talking about the bastardized versions you might get in supermarkets, or some random sushi restaurant with a sushi train in it (although those in Japan e.g. Genki Sushi are quite respectable and of decent value). What I’m talking about is the really good stuff, that is perfection in itself, without any need for further embellishment. I, myself have commited quite a few cardinal sins while eating sushi, slathering it with offensive amounts of bottle-squeezed wasabi and over-salted soy sauce. But of course that’s with the generic stuff that had been mass produced and of questionable quality. But after making a few trips to Japan, namely Hokkaido (Sapporo, Hakodate) and Kyushu (Kagoshima and Fukuoka), I have since attempted to kneel and repent.
I suspect many of you heard of Jiro. His humble establishment in a Tokyo subway station has garnered the top honor of Three Michelin stars, and was recently patronized by President Obama during his Asian tour. This film is about him and his restaurant, the inevitable succession by his son Yoshikazu, and the elusive search for perfection. For me, it’s hard to imagine that a person would dedicate his entire existence to sushi, albeit probably making the best sushi on this planet. But that’s what strikes me about Japanese cuisine, everybody takes it bloody seriously.
Like many of the best cuisines out there, it’s all about using the best ingredients available and just letting them shine. It’s also about establishing the relationship with the food purveyors, who are equally as passionate about their product. I suspect that most restaurants don’t know where their ingredients came from, how it was caught or grown, with purveyors who merely chase the buck rather than the best available produce. After watching this film, I truly had an appreciation for this, and suspect that you might too.
This movie is a must-watch for folks who wants to learn more about Sushi, what it should be, and about dedication to a specific craft. The film is engaging and strikingly poignant, and of course, make you salivate uncontrollably and crave for Japanese food.
I’m quite looking forward to my Japanese sojourn, and will share my Osaka and Kyoto food itinerary in due course. But I suspect that as with my previous trips to Japan, I’ll never want to eat Japanese food anywhere else again. Everything else just pales in comparison.