Jiro Dreams of Sushi – Food in Japanese Cinema Part 3

Written by Jason Adamson on . Posted in food

Jiro is a sushi chef – but he is not just any sushi chef – he has given his life to sushi and everyday tries to reach a new level in a never-ending quest for perfection. Jiro is an 85-year-old sushi chef with a restaurant in a subway station in Tokyo. His restaurant has 3 Michelin stars and Japan has called him a national treasure.

This documentary was shot over a one-year period by film and documentary maker David Gelb and if you don’t have respect for sushi at the beginning of this film you are sure to by the end of it.

You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill.”Jiro states, “That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

One of the core cultural values in Japan is something called Gamon. It is a social force, which means to do your best no matter what. It is almost a sense of pride. The word ‘ganbatte’ does not directly translate into English but it means ‘c’mon you can do it,’ – ‘work hard and you will succeed,’ and ‘don’t give up.’

 ‘You must fall in love with your work’  – Jiro

Many Japanese only have one job for their whole lives – it is the card that they draw. So much pressure is placed on high school and university and the job that will follow. If a good company takes you in when you graduate university – that is your life – you do not even know where in the company you will be working, let alone the city or place. So ‘you must fall in love with your workas opposed to the Western saying of ‘you must do what you love’ is a very different way of thinking.

This ideology in which there is only one way for something to be done and rules must be followed at all costs, reflects and then rebuilds upon Japanese society creating a never-ending circle of what is supposedly seen as natural. This naturalizing is a force that contributes to hegemony.

Hegemony can be described as an unseen power within society. It is a concept that was originally developed in the 1930’s by Gramsci but in relation to what we are discussing here it is best described by Hartely as ‘a force that naturalizes what is historically a class ideology and renders it into common sense’ Hartely 2002, p 999

Is this the reason that Jiro is such a great sushi chef or is it because he is truly passionate about what he does? Can your control your passion? Is this what is being conveyed in this film?

The power of language systems is that there is a very great difference between the signifier and the signified; the power of film is that there is not’ (Monaco 1981, p 127-8)

In contrary to the above quote, even though a documentary is supposed to be a series of ‘real’ events, we must remember that a photograph or a film is not a recording of an event in full, it is just one of a number of many possible representations.

‘Rather than reproducing the “world” spontaneously and automatically, as the ideology of realism would have the spectator believe, the cinematic apparatus always operates selectively, limiting, filtering and transforming the images that are its raw material’ (Rodowick 1994, p 77)

This film could be said to be a documentary made from a Western perspective, in the fact that it can never truly convey the sub texts of cultural difference properly because a Western audience can never understand the underlying core values. Every culture has its own cultural values which are societal constructs that come from history, religion and different philosophies. Japanese cultural values are based on things such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Bushido and a variety of other factors.

A realistic portrayal or not Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a great food film that will leave the mouth of any real food lover dripping with saliva.

Get Jiro Dreams of Sushi DVD at Amazon

Reference

Burgin, Victor (1982): ‘Photographic Practice and Art Theory’. In Burgin (Ed) pp. 39-83

Monaco, James (1981): How to Read a Film. New York: Oxford University Press (Part III, ‘The Language of Film: Signs and Syntax’)

odowick, David N (1994): The Crisis of Political Modernism: Criticism and Ideology in Contemporary Film Theory. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press

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Jason Adamson

Jason Adamson

Jason lives in Osaka Japan and has an infatuation with raw fish, ninjas and sake. Originally from Australia he has a Masters in Communications and a Le Cordon Bleu Masters of Gastronomic Tourism. He also owns a very old Nintendo.
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Comments (1)

  • Jean cazals

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    A Master piece ! You seat to eatch that film as you were about to sest in a 3 star Michelin! A film full integrity which should shown to a ot of people .

    Reply

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