Greetings again, film fans! our feature of the day is Jiro Dreams of Sushi from 2011. It is a documentary out of Japan. Yes, I know I know I know. I typically don’t use documentaries. Usually they’re really boring and dry and maybe you’re gonna say that about this one. But one of its saving graces is it’s only 81 minutes long, okay. If you like Japan, if you like Tokyo, if you like Japanese culture, if you like sushi or if you just appreciate people who have mad, mad skills in life, you’ll probably appreciate this short 81 minute documentary despite the fact that it’s a subtitled documentary. The film follows one Jiro Ono, the 89 or 90 year old sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro. I say 89 or 90 just realised I don’t know when you’re gonna watch this video clip. So Jiro Ono was born in 1925 and as of 2015 when I’m making this introductory video, he is still very much alive and well and working in the sushi restaurant that bears his name every day. Every single day. And Sukiyabashi Jiro is a sushi restaurant, a Michelin three-star rated sushi restaurant, that’s actually located in a small little shop that seats like 10 people at a time on your way down into a subway station in Tokyo, in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It’s a really, really huge deal. Heads of state from all over planet Earth go and visit this place And he’s widely admired as the best sushi Master on planet Earth. And if you don’t know the Michelin rating system, it’s a system, I believe out of France, that rates restaurants. Three stars is the max you can get, there’s no such thing as four. And I believe Sukiyabashi Jiro was the first restaurant rated in Japan and it’s certainly the highest rated sushi restaurant on planet Earth. It’s that kind of a big huge deal to foodies and rich people and critics and things like that. This is a very famous restaurant. Although, it’s very subtle and unassuming and you’re going to see it because it’s the scene of most of the action of this movie. Now Jiro is the old man. Easy to figure that out pretty quick. He has two sons. The younger son Takashi, and the older son 50 year old or 51 year old Yoshikazu who is obliged to succeed his father someday and take over the restaurant. So a fifty year old man is waiting to take over a restaurant from a 90 year old father. It’s crazy, but that’s the kind of things I’m hoping going to pay attention to in this film is the relationships, family relationships in Japan and dedication to work that’s so pre-eminently almost a driving, passionate dedication to work that is a very pre-eminently Japanese cultural phenomena. And this guy epitomizes all that. And attention to detail. There’s so many great things going on here about Japanese culture. That’s why I like showing this film. And hopefully like sushi and you’ll be interested in that. So speaking of which, the only other person that’s featured prominently in the film off and on the whole time is Yamamoto who was a famous food writer who himself has written books on sushi. So if you’re interested in the history of sushi, and the current greatest restaurants in the world go read Yamamoto books. He’s also featured in the film as well. So what this is a story of is family, a guy dedicated to a craft that does one thing and he’s done one thing his whole life, and he does it so well. He’s world renowned for it, and it is make sushi. Now, you know this stuff, the sushi stuff. The raw fish that you probably take for granted because you think it’s been around everyone on planet earth forever, but it really hasn’t. more on that later. But it’s a very modern phenomena to have such wide availability of sushi and pay attention to that storyline throughout the film as well. You can get it now anywhere in the US and even in a small town wherever you are in the United States and anywhere in Europe but this of course is a distinctly Japanese cuisine, a distinct component of Japanese culture. And by they way, why do the Japanese eat so much fish and rice? ‘Cuz isn’t that what we think sushi is? It’s fish and rice, and rice and fish, or something seafood and rice. Hopefully you’ve already watched the Japanese lecture on why Because of physical geography and history the Japanese really have as foundation stones of their diet rice and fish and thus there’s lots of experimentation with these two ingredients into this one thing that we now recognize as sushi. Now you’re gonna hear lots of different technical terms for the sushi that they’re making in this film. You call everything that has rice and fish and some sort of wrap as sushi, but there’s lots of different differentiations in the cuisine itself especially if you go to a high-end sushi restaurant. In its most basic form, sushi, is a Japanese food consisting of vinegared rice, and we always get that combined with really any other ingredient most notably of all, seafood, sometimes vegetables, sometimes even tropical fruits. If the stuff is put on a pad of rice about the size of your thumb, then it’s nigiri or nigiri sushi. That’s the one you’re mostly going to see in that film. That’s why I’m telling you these terms, nigiri sushi. Nigiri. Pad of rice, something on top. The type you are more familiar with is fish or something in the middle with rice wrapped around it and a layer of seaweed or a belt of seaweed wrapped around it. The seaweed is nori and you’re gonna see people actually a toasting sheets of nori in the film. And then cut into pieces, and rolled and cut into pieces. That’s the stuff that you are most familiar with and that’s actually technically I think called Maki sushi or Maki on a menu if you’re ordering a Japanese restaurant. Now all this sushi culture has its roots in ancient Edo, the old name for the capital that we now call Tokyo. When peeps would…they would actually store fish by layering fish and then putting a layer of rice, and layering fish, and layering rice, and actually kind of letting it ferment which is a slow controlled rot and that’s how you get those kind of funky, sour flavors. That’s how they did it back in the old day, but coming into the modern era 1850s, 1860s when Japan, because of the Meiji Restoration, starts really hustling and bustling and Tokyo starts becoming a major metropolitan area, you actually had food vendors just like you’d have hot dog vendors or food trucks anywhere in New York City or LA or, hell, anywhere in America now, making their own little specialized craft. You had food vendors and a thriving Tokyo metropolitan area who were mimicking that slow fermented fish process by just substituting in vinegar into rice that made it sticky and then taking fresh seafood and wrapping and doing lots of stuff with it. So it’s this great cuisine that actually was basically started by food trucks, by street vendors who wanted bite-size little morsels that you could sell again like you do hotdogs or pretzels on a street corner in New York City. Of course, it’s come a long way since those roots 100, 150, 200 years ago. And we will talk about that at the back end of the film, but let’s get to it now. What is it that we’re gonna see in this film? I usually try to show films that show a bit of the landscape and the scenery and lots of stuff in the country. This one is all done in Tokyo. And Tokyo is a major metropolitan area, and it’s a big city. It’s one the most important cities on planet Earth. It’s what we call an alpha city, it’s one of the richest cities on planet Earth. Tokyo is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. You can consider that kind of like states, and yes, Tokyo is a city. So it’s kind of like saying there’s 50 states in the United States and Washington DC, right? There’s 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo the city is one of them. And as I’ve suggested, it’s both the capital of Japan and the largest city of Japan, and the richest city in Japan, and one of the richest cities on planet Earth. Major metropolitan area with upwards of 37 or 38 million people located in it. World’s largest urban agglomeration economy. The Tokyo economy is probably bigger than virtually half or more the countries on planet Earth. It’s just that big. The city hosts 51 of the fortune 500 global companies. Highest number of any city in the world. Again, we call it an alpha city because there’s so much going on. It’s so critical to world markets and world economy and world trade and world finance and world technology. It’s just a really, huge big deal. So the background of course is Tokyo a place you know about. Now you’re mostly gonna see the small little dinko restaurant. As I suggested, it’s in a Tokyo subway station, Sukiyabashi Jiro. A fabled restaurant, legendary restaurant in Tokyo’s fashionable Ginza district. Widely regarded is the best sushi restaurant on planet Earth. They’re also going to visit sporadically another thing I want to give you a few facts about called the Tsukiji Market. The huge fish market, probably the biggest and most famous and certainly highest-valued fish market on planet Earth as well. The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, that’s the technical term, aka the Tsukiji Market, is the biggest wholesaler of fish in seafood market in the world and the largest wholesale food markets of any kind on planet Earth. It’s in central Tokyo. About 700,000 metric tons of seafood a year is moved through this few city block area to the tune of five and a $5.5 billion. And that’s just one of three major fish markets in Tokyo. All three fish markets in Tokyo, open-air fresh fish markets, are valued at something like $6.5 billion. That’s not how much they sell every year. That’s just if we wanted to buy them. $6.5 billion. That alone is bigger than the GDP of a whole bunch of countries. That’s just the fish being sold in Tokyo,. But it’s a great backdrop for the story because it’s showing you the importance and the value of seafood, not just to this particular restaurant, but the attention to detail that everybody pays to seafood in Tokyo and Japan at large. This place is super famous because it’s a tourist destination. Because there’s so much going on. It’s a destination for locals to just go to eat. So there’s like two different sections of it. There’s an inner market that you’re going to see them going around looking at fish in. That’s where the fish auctions take place. The outer market is kind of a mix of wholesale and retail shops and restaurants. And again, people from all around Tokyo and tourists go in to see all this stuff happening. The market opens at 3 a.m. every day. The fish market, the tuna auction in particular, starts at 3:00 a.m., is finished by 5:20 a.m, and everybody’s packed up and out of there by 7:00 a.m. That’s before the sun even comes up. That’s the action this you’re gonna– You’re gonna feel that energy when you see the Tsukiji Fish Market portrayed in this film. And they’re gonna keep talking about how everybody’s an expert. How these guys are really “shokunin”. All this guy studies is octopus. All this person does is sea urchin, and they’ve done it their whole lives. It’s something that’s kind of hard for us to fathom, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Wait for that from the post discussion. The only other place you’re gonna see depicted in the film besides the restaurant, downtown Tokyo, the fish market is Hamamatsu, which is Jiro’s hometown that they go to sporadically which is a city located in the Shizuoka Prefecture which is south of Tokyo. And they’re just there for a little bit, but they take a nice train ride. So you see a little bit of the countryside, like that much. Let’s get to the film though, some of the terms you’re gonna hear. I’ve now referenced one, “shokunin”. There’s no real translation of this to us. But I want you to think about as you’re watching this film. The Japanese word “shokunin” is defined by both the Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries as a craftsman or artisan. But that’s a pretty liberal description. Doesn’t really justify the deeper meaning that the Japanese give to it. Shokunin is someone that has technical skills, but it also implies an attitude and social consciousness that this is all work they’re doing. This guy just studies and sells sea urchins every day for 50 years. He has elevated that knowledge base to greater than anyone else on the planet throughout all time in history. And that’s respectable in and of itself. The shokunin has a social obligation to work at his or her best for the general welfare of the people so it’s kind of like an artisan, and a craftsman, and a master craftsman combined with like a Buddhist monk. It’s really hard to explain, but you’ll see that people give reverence. And when they say oh this guy’s a shokunin they’re not playing around. That’s like a really respectful thing to say about somebody. The other word that I definitely want you to pay attention to is umami. I want you to start using this term well after you finish watching this film. Umami, which a lot of folks are now saying is kind of the fifth sense on your tongue, everybody seems to say that there are four basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. But many food writers and even scientists are now saying no, there’s something else and we’re gonna call it umami. And it’s a Japanese term which means delicious or yummy. It’s an unctuous, pleasant, savory taste that the tongue detects immediately when you get it, but it’s hard to put words around. Salty, you got that. Sweet, we got that. Umami is something else altogether, and hopefully you’ll figure out what that is by watching this film. But let’s get to the film now 81 minutes, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Things to pay attention to, obviously, all aspects of Japanese culture, family relationships, attitudes towards family in Japanese culture, Japanese diet, Japanese cuisine, obviously a center point here, Japanese attitudes towards specialization, as I’ve now pointed out with that shokunin term, attention to detail, meticulous attention to detail to the point of elevating the everyday into an art form. And the Japanese are famous for doing this for like everything. Think bonsai, rock gardens, floral arrangements. Attention to detail. Watch that in action in this film. And finally do pay attention to the story of sushi itself in terms of How globalization has taken this distinctly Japanese cuisine and cultural phenomena to the rest of the world and what have been the impacts to the world because of the globalization of this one thing we call sushi. That’s all I got for now, enjoy the film. We’ll see you on the flip side of 81 minutes. Enjoy Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Hi!