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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rediscover Good Japan ~Vol.3

Hi there,
I'm kind of amazed it's already the third round since I started this Rediscover Good Japan.
Honestly, I thought it'd be much easier to write what is good about Japan but I soon found it rather harder than I expected not because it's hard to find what is amazing about the country but the depth of what I thought I knew about the country was not necessarily deep enough, so, to confess, I sometimes had to go back and research, then found something new.
The process was kind of like reading a good book or watching a good movie; you read or watch it over and over again and always learn something every time.
Japan is like a good book, or a movie and you can walk through it many times and still find something new each time.
It is because the country is still alive. 
And it is because there are people who make the country alive.
I would like to talk about a man who is definitely one of those people who make the country alive; he is a master of sushi.
His name is Jiro Ono.
 He is 88 year-old, who still stands in front of the customers and makes sushi at his restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro in Ginza, Tokyo.
His restaurant received three-star from Michelin for six years straight.
He was featured in Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations,"
and many other Japanese TV programs in the past.
Then he became internationally famous after the movie "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" came out.
It is a very well made documentary that really shows his life that is completely devoted to make sushi which is almost at the level of work of art. 
Sushi might seem such a simple, easy thing to make for many people.
Now, I have to say I've been asked many times if I know how to make them just because I am Japanese. Every time I tell them that I cannot say I do, I maybe can make something that is edible but it is not as easy and simple as people may think. 
It is a profession that takes years and years to become a professional sushi chef.
They say you can learn how to wash the rice properly for three years and after ten years you get to learn how to make eggs.
 In Japan, there are official Living National Treasures that certify individuals as
Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties
that are categorized in technology, education, art, science and such.
Jiro, unfortunately, is not officially certified (however the youtube clip says he is) since I guess there is no chef ever been certified and perhaps chefs are not even in the category.
However, he surely is at that level and is one of these who should be.

From the major Japanese restaurants review site, many people mentioned how nerve lacking experience it was to eat in front of Jiro besides the point how amazing the sushi was.
Some people even said it was not a pleasant experience specially for over 30,000 yen course meal in fifteen minitues.  
I also found it interesting that now majority of customers who eat at his restaurant are foreigners.
So I also checked international review sites for his restaurant.
Most of them obviously watched the movie, and understood why he is "not particularly friendly" or "does not talk."
They seem to understand his sushi better than those Japanese customers who complained in their reviews;
He is not there to entertain the customers with his talk.
 He does what he does best and the customers are there to observe.
It is simply up to the customers to decide whether 30,000 yen is expensive or not.
I almost think that to have his level of sushi and appreciate, it is almost inevitable to train your taste buds before you go in.
I am sure it tastes good even if you happen to go and try it without knowing him,
but to completely understand such delicacy, you cannot eat salty fast food every day because it ruins the taste buds.
It is really like food couture that he creates in his hand.
And today's world, it is hard to find people like him, and people who understand and appreciate those work because we live in such a rush world that things move and change so quickly that nobody has time to sit and really observe what is surrounding them.
So, the fifteen minutes of silence but just to eat what is brought in front of you at Jiro's restaurant sounds plenty time to focus.
In someone's review that I read in Japanese site, she says she was surprised how gentle and soft his hand felt when she shook hand with him.
The hands that are protected by his groves whenever he goes out make the masterpiece of sushi.

What I loved about this man after watching the documentary is that not only he is the true Shokunin (master) but also is someone who lives his life the way he wants to.
It sounds such a simple thing but it is truly the hardest thing to do.
And he still tries.
In the documentary he says "Even at my age, in my work, I haven't reached the perfection."
I found the beauty of Japanese Shokunin spirit in his words.
He says we must fall in love with our work.
Not just working hard makes the beauty in your work, but your devotion and love creates the work to reach such levels.

I could only wish to reach that level someday. 
And I really appreciate that you read my blog that I know for sure it is hard to read for lack of my knowledge of the language with unimpressive skill in writing.
But at least my Pigeon Dynamite is trying harder to reach the level everyday.

Thanks for reading.


実 際アメリカに来て、何人にも鮨を作って欲しいとか、作り方を知ってるかと聞かれた事があります。彼らはおそらく日本人なら皆鮨の作り方位知っていると思っ ているんだと思います。その都度、知っていると言えるレベルでは無いと言って、鮨とは想像よりも遥かに作るのが難しい食べ物たと説明しています。そもそも だからこそ鮨職人なんぞと呼ばれる方達がいらっしゃる訳で、一般に米をとぐのに3年、10年経ってようやく玉子を焼かせてもらえると言われる程、気の遠く なるような長い修行期間が要される職業です。


「あまりしゃべらず」「其れ程愛想がよくない」鮨職人であるのか、より理解している様に思えました。 もっと言えば、彼らの方が遥かに、何故小野さんの鮨を食べに来ているのかを分かっている様に思えます。


最低でも私のPigeon Dynamiteは毎日良くなる努力をして次のレベルを目指しています。


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