Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Week 9)

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I was really excited when my instructor informed us that we’d be watching this documentary (directed by David Gelb). Having seen this film twice already, I was still more than happy to watch it a third time.

On one level, the cinematography and music are beautiful, and the images of perfectly crafted sushi make my mouth water. The first couple times I’ve watched it, I’ve focussed on mainly these aspects of the movie. This time, we were asked to focus on the lessons to be learned from Jiro and his restaurant.

One of Jiro’s lines that really stuck out to me this time, was about how he always strives to elevate his craft. To become a top sushi chef (a Shokunin), you have to be tough on yourself. You have to immerse yourself and dedicate your life to mastering your skill. It’s something that can be applied to everything we do as designers, that we should always be self-critical, and see every experience as a learning one, and that only strengthens you in the long run. We should always strive to be better.

Jiro’s restaurant has a 3-star rating from the Michelin system, and his customers agree that his sushi is worth the 30,000 yen that it costs to dine at the restaurant. It’s almost unbelievable that food could ever be good enough to blow approximately $300 on for a single meal, but similar to good design, you’re paying for not only the final result, but the whole experience. This means customer service, and an understandable rationale behind what makes you worth the time. If your work is good, and you are well known, people will pay the money to get it.

As a student of design, watching the dedication of the apprentices is very inspirational. They, like Jiro had in the past, have dedicated their lives to becoming like their mentor, and becoming Shokunin. It was said by Jiro that at least 10 years were needed to becoming a true sushi chef. The expectations for the apprentices are high in terms of how hard they have to work. Sometimes, as a student, we’re prone to complaining a lot about our workload, but like the apprentices, we should see that even when the work we’re doing feels tedious and pointless, it will benefit us in some way (that we might not be able to see yet) in the long run. 

For me, the most important thing I’ve taken away from this film has to be Jiro’s firm belief in “falling in love with your art” in order to master it. The one thing that affirms my desire to continue to be a designer is my love for it, and the feeling of not “going to work” but doing something I truly enjoy. Jiro is now definitely one of my inspirations, and visiting Jiro’s restaurant is now on my bucket list.

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