Click on the elements in Jiro's world to learn about sushi and the art of the shokunin.
A Meal Is Like a Symphony
In Jiro’s restaurant, says the food critic in the film, the sushi meal is divided into three movements, like a symphony: The first movement offers classic items, like tuna and kohada; the second is an improvisation, in which fresh, seasonal catches of the day are served either raw or cooked; the traditional finale is eel, kanpyo (gourd), and egg. "You're consuming Jiro's philosophy with every bite."
Octopus (8 Point Massage)
Jiro used to massage octopus for 30 minutes but then discovered that it makes a huge difference to do this seemingly arduous task even longer; his apprentices now massage octopus for up to 50 minutes in the morning before cooking it. What can be an otherwise rubbery, tasteless food becomes wholly transformed, with a soft texture, and is served warm.
3 Star Rating
"A perfect three-star Michelin rating means it is worth making a trip to that country just to eat at that restaurant."
Sukiyabashi Jiro received the Michelin Guide's highest rating. The 2012 Michelin 3-star list included just over 100 restaurants worldwide in 12 countries, with Japan, France, Germany, and U.S.A. leading the way. With 16 restaurants listed, Tokyo had more 3 star places than any other city. Still, Jiro remains in very select company.
Heir Apparent: Yoshikazu
"Always try to improve on yourself. Always strive to elevate your craft. That's what he taught me."
Carrying on the family business: Jiro's 52-year-old son Yoshikazu Ono is a talented sushi chef in his own right, having studied under one of the best — his father. Considered Jiro's heir apparent, Yoshikazu makes the daily ride via bicycle to the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, after Jiro cut back on such activities following a heart attack. But according to Yoshikazu, chef Jiro still only takes off work for national holidays or funerals.
Just because a piece of food is simple doesn't mean it’s flavorless. Umami loosely translates as “pleasant savory taste”; it’s often thought of as a “fifth flavor” in Japanese cuisine and as Jiro’s son describes it can reflect a desire for balance of flavors. More technically, according to the Umami Information Center, umami taste is created using glutamate, a type of amino acid, and ribonucleotides which occur naturally in many foods, including meat, fish, vegetables, and dairy. In sushi, umami is often tasted in fermented rice and fish.
"When we have good tuna, I feel great. While I'm making the sushi, I feel victorious."
Tuna used for sushi is usually one of two kinds: Maguro, bluefin tuna, the most common fish in sushi dining, and yellowfin, or ahi, tuna. Akami is a leaner cut from the side, while toro is from the fattier belly; toro itself is broken up into chutoro and otoro (fattiest). Tuna comes with environmental concerns: Bluefin has been overfished to the point of endangerment, while yellowfin, also used in canned fish, swims in schools caught in nets that were also catching dolphins, which sparked an outcry to reform fishing methods.
Jiro the Shokunin
"You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill"
Shokunin have been perfecting the art of sushi for 1000 years. Shokunin is a master chef who's paid their dues after a prolonged apprenticeship where they start at the very bottom of the order in the kitchen — and starting young, too: in Jiro’s case at the age of 9. Jiro believes that a shokunin should never complain, love their work and do it at the highest level, relentlessly, daily, striving to get better — even at the age of 85.
Making the Right Rice
"We put a lot of pressure on the rice."
Chef Jiro’s skills and decades of experience come into play when making rice for sushi. A critical part of making perfect sushi rolls is using the best quality rice (Jiro purchases from a dealer who saves the best just for the chef); the rice must be served at room temperature rather than refrigerated after being cooked in a pressure cooker and flavored with vinegar.