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Shokunin

A few years ago I was lucky to discover the documentary, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and have since watched it over and over.  It is masterfully done.

Jiro (now 92) is the world’s finest sushi chef.  His restaurant (Sukiyabashi Jiro) only has 10 counter seats and a meal is priced at 30,000 yen ($300), no appetizers, no drinks (except tea), just 20 pieces of sushi, hand-prepared by Jiro. You need to make reservations about a year in advance.  Jiro’s sushi is simple but incredible and is considered to be the best in the world by leading chefs and others who truly understand this food.

I’m not really a foodie and know nearly nothing about sushi, but this documentary goes way beyond preparing food.  It exemplifies the concept of shokunin, the Japanese word for craftsman or artisan. It is about the mastery of one’s profession.  Jiro has truly mastered his profession and still wants to get better at it.

“Once you decide on your occupation… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success… and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

“I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I’ll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is.”

He literally does dreams about sushi with new ideas sometimes coming to him in his sleep.

I believe that many of us can relate to Jiro and the concept of shokunin.  We love what we do and want to get better and better at it. My favorite lines from the documentary is when Jiro calmly and definitively says “Even at my age, after decades of work, I don’t think I’ve achieved perfection.  But I feel ecstatic all day.  I love making sushi.”

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