45. Jiro – serving succulent sushi with a side order of insight.

“You have to love your job. You must fall in love with your work.”

Two nights ago I saw the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Some viewers might see it as just an hour and a half of sushi food porn (which, I’ll be honest, it totally was), but I saw it as so much more! While Jiro made it very clear in the film that you cannot order appetizers or side-orders at his restaurant, I still walked away from the film with a belly…er, mind full of cultural insights.

Hearing an 85-year-old man who has worked in the sushi business for 75 years speak about not having reached perfection in his work could be taken in a few different ways:

1) It could be humbling.

2) It could be inspiring.

3) …it could be discouraging.

When it’s Jiro, it can only be humbling and inspiring. Jiro Ono is a recognized national treasure by the Japanese government. His dishes start at 30,000 yen (around $300 US dollars). Customers of Sukiyabashi Jiro have to make reservations at least one month in advance. The restaurant has received 3 Michelin stars, which basically means it’s a restaurant worth traveling to Japan to eat at.

You’d think all this success would really go to someone’s head! And yet Jiro still rises with the sun every morning, taking the same route to work he’s taken for years and continues to perfect his craft while training his two sons and a handful of already-talented Sukiyabashi employees.

Training with Jiro is difficult. One interviewed employee said he cried when he finally received praise from Jiro after years of training. All the employees loved what they were doing and didn’t seem to want to be anywhere else.

These attitudes from Jiro and his employees definitely gave me some general insights into the Japanese culture and its people. These are of course generalizations and not true of everyone, but still very insightful!

  • People are humble.
  • They understand the responsibility and value of hard work.
  • Jiro was encouraging yet strict with his employees when it came to the quality of their sushi.
  • Praise was given when it was deserved – no over-praising in Sukiyabashi Jiro.
  • Hierarchy in and out of the workplace is very important.
  • There seems to be a deep appreciation for simplicity and beauty. Jiro and his staff took great care in how their sushi was presented and displayed, only serving guests one simple piece of sushi at a time on a spotless, shiny black dish. In between each piece of sushi served, they would wipe the dish clean.
  • People are optimistic, possessing a fighting spirit during difficult times.

Finally, Jiro said that “you have to love your job. You must fall in love with your work.” Even if you’re at a job that might not be your favorite, try and find something about it you enjoy. You can learn something from every job you have if you’re open and willing. And without love, the work you produce will be missing something. Find that passion and pursue it! See how far it can take you.

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