In my opinion, I believe that cuisine is a very delicate form of art that many people either take for granted or forget about due to its abundance and regularity. By gathering different ingredients from completely different ecosystems (which in themselves are either tasteless or incompatible), one can so delicately combine them together in the appropriate amount and texture to create not only an artistic eye candy effect but also a balanced mixture of tastes to satisfy the taste buds. I do believe that all forms of art involve imagination, improvisation, and innovative utilization of belongings. It, therefore, allows me to view food culture as a very diverse art form that is uniquely beautiful across the world and that allows the continuous social and virtual interaction of human beings.
Moreover, Japanese culture has been diverse and uniquely artistic. From all across the world, its beauty has spread. Undoubtedly, Japanese cuisine contains very unique aesthetics. Its food can be so simple, yet so sophisticated. Often, we notice that the way it is presented can be as important (if not more) as the way it tastes.
For instance, when strolling across a street full of restaurants, a large amount of them display what is known as “sampuru” (which translates to “sample”). These sampurus are plastic food models that look as real as the food itself which allows the customer beforehand to have an idea of what will be offered to him/her. The act of making sampurus is an art in itself that many expertise in to become providers for the restaurants.
One of the most important Japanese foods that has been becoming prominent around the world is sushi. It is fair to say that most people around the world are aware of sushi as a food; however, sushi as an art form may not be a concept that many would ponder upon. Due to its simplicity, sushi can have a connotation of being a food that is very easy to eat and make. Yet, for the people who live or have been to Japan, they often hear that in order to become a sushi chef, one has to attend a sushi making school for years (which can sound overly excessive to many). However, we ask ourselves, what makes sushi so simple, yet so difficult to make?
David Gelb’s Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) is a documentary that demonstrates the art of sushi by the 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono. Jiro Dreams of Sushi mainly focuses on the restaurant that Jiro owns and how he manages it. Since Jiro is such an expert and a highly appraised individual, the documentary also portrays the relationship he has with his sons and how his elder son (Yoshikazu), as an eventual heir, can or cannot take over his restaurant.
Jiro Ono is a simple man whose life only revolves around the art of sushi. Saying that it is his passion may not be enough to describe his relationship with sushi.
In the documentary, we can notice how important sushi is and how (despite often being implicit) it is such a complicated yet splendid form of art. The appearance of the sushi is just as important as it tastes. Even though it may not be obvious when looking at it shallowly, sushi can highly differ from one chef to another. Each chef has his/her own style; and just like artists and painters, one needs to aesthetically observe their artwork to distinguish their magnificence.
The craft of sushi making has been the long life work of Jiro. Even though artists can usually only make art “when they feel like it” or when “the art is ready to express itself,” Jiro, on the other hand, is a combination of an artist and a hard worker. He demonstrates that even though sushi crafting is an art, it cannot be attained without true dedication and hard work. Jiro works countless hours and lives a rather minimalist life; he loves sushi mayhap (or surely) more than any other practice and his life decisions are based on it. This is probably without any doubt the reason why the restaurant that he owns is very expensive and difficult to reserve a seat in (according to the documentary, even a month before may not be enough to make a reservation).
Jiro’s sushi crafting exceeds any chef’s, and even though he has attempted to train his son since he was 19 years old, many people doubt that his son will be able to take over the restaurant and perform even closely to how his father did. The following is a paraphrase of what his son said in the documentary regarding taking over his dad: he mentioned that even if he performs as good as his father, people (customers) will view it as mediocre and lesser than his father; and even if he does exceed his father, people will only think he is as good as his father.
Finally, I want to conclude that it is truly beautiful and a blessing to find something that one loves to do for the rest of their life. Jiro Ono portrays that quality of passion and love for his work. Yet nothing comes easy, because even though he loves it and he may be truly talented in it, he would not have reached this level of prestige without his large amount of hard work. His sushi crafting is so simple, yet so artistic. The smell, the touch, the sound, the portrayal, and the taste are all simultaneously used while crafting sushi and tasting it.
Sushi, therefore, is not just an art form but also a very deep way of living life that one can only be so lucky to participate in. Similar to how the samurai lived their lives in a rather philosophical and soulful way by making Zen Buddhism an art and a way of living, Jiro Ono has allowed sushi and the art of crafting it a purpose for living and an act that even though begins at a physical and psychological level, eventually becomes philosophical.
Here is the official trailer of the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi: