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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Jiro Ono is 85 years old. He owns a small sushi restaurant in downtown Tokyo. It's located in the lower level of a sleek office building next to a subway station. The restaurant seats only 10 customers at a counter. There are no tables and no waiting area. Mr. Ono does not serve appetizers, deserts or liquor. His customers are expected to be on time, not early and certainly not late. They are warmly greeted and seated at the counter. Typically each receives 20 pieces of sushi, each different, one piece at a time. A customer does not say what he'd like. Mr. Ono will decide. Mr. Ono is the subject of the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Mr. Ono watches his customers. Are they left or right handed? That determines where at the counter they'll be seated. Male or female? Females receive slightly smaller pieces of sushi. Customers in a group should end their meal at the same time, and female mouths are usually a bit smaller. How does the customer react? Mr. Ono recently has had an apprentice massage octopus in a large tub of water for 45 minutes instead of 30. He thinks the longer massage might make the octopus just a bit more tender and flavorful. Conversation is not encouraged and loitering after the meal is unheard of. A meal will cost the equivalent of at least $300. There is a three-month wait for lunch or dinner reservations.

Jiro Ono is a sushi master. This gentle and obsessed man has made sushi for 70 years. He is widely considered to be the foremost maker of sushi in the world. He left home at a young age. He says he was a bully in school. He became an apprentice, spending years learning the basic skills of sushi. At 85, Jiro is intent on learning more and improving. A craftsman, he says, must be able to turn out his product over and over again with no lessening in quality. He must always seek improvement. He must never be satisfied.

Jiro Ono has lived this credo with single-minded concentration. Until he had a heart attack at 70 he would arrive at the Tsukiji Fish Market before dawn to select only the freshest and highest quality fish. Then it's to his restaurant to teach and supervise the apprentices, consider every aspect of the lunch and dinner to come that day, review the reservation list and consider where each customer will be placed. Expense is not a concern. Jiro Ono buys only the best rice suited for sushi which is precisely cooked by apprentices; only the best fish is used. Nori is carefully toasted over a small grill outside his restaurant by his son or a trusted apprentice. He and his son daily taste everything before the restaurant opens. Even the tiniest of imperfections are corrected. If a fish doesn't meet his standards, it is discarded. One apprentice made 200 sheets of tamago, the sweet egg omelet, before he at last received Jiro Ono's approval. The other 199? They were discarded. The apprentice wept when Mr. Ono approved the 200th.

And of Mr. Ono's family and his interests? He refers to his wife with affection but we never see her or hear from her. His two sons hold him in respect. The oldest, Yoshikazu, is 50. When Jiro dies or is incapacitated Yoshikazu will take his father's place. Mr. Ono sent his youngest son out to start his own sushi restaurant when Mr. Ono thought he was ready. He wouldn't allow his two sons to become competitors, especially when by tradition the oldest son will inherit the business. For Mr. Ono's interests beyond sushi, he seems not to have any. Sushi has been his life, to perfect the art and craft of a taking a few simple but perfect ingredients and making them into something complex and subtle. Is the man to be admired. Absolutely. Is the man odd? Absolutely.

David Gelb has made a documentary of this extraordinary person. It's a wonderful piece of filmmaking.

One thing for sure. Mr. Ono would never, never allow a piece of cream cheese or an avocado in his kitchen.
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on 5 May 2013
I saw this in the theatre and then haunted Amazon until it came out so I could buy it. One if the most beautiful and haunting films you'll see. Jiro and his sons are so engaging you get totally caught up in their world. The movie speaks of family and sustainability and craft in I way I have never seen anywhere else. Eve though the subject is quite serious and could have been heavy going in the wrong hands the movie has an endearing warmth and humour that is utterly captivating. I couldn't stop thinking about this film and it still stays with me all these months later.
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on 8 February 2013
Gentle, sweet film about the life and (sushi) love of an 80-something chef, and his sons. In what I think has been described as the most expensive restaurant in the world, because it's a tiny space in an underground tube station. I'm saving up to go eat there.
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on 26 October 2014
fantastic engaging endearing hypnotic informative. The sort of film I can happily watch many times, occasionally finding new pleasures, revisiting moments of subtle character. I came away with a great respect for the characters, and incidentally as a result of their experience, a fresh concern for the future of this planet's wildlife diversity.
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on 11 January 2016
A wonderfully inspiring man that many people, and companies, could learn from. He came across as a far gentler person that I thought he would be, demanding in his own way but not overbearing - just someone doing all they can to search for that elusive perfection.

My only wish, and it is but a small grumble, is that the film-making was perhaps a little more daring but one has to remember the time this was made - way before Asif Kapadia and his team (Senna, Amy) redefined what a film in this genre could do.
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on 14 September 2012
This is a wonderful and inspiring documentary-film - beautifully executed and not just for sushi lovers but for anyone who appreciates the importance of hard-work, commitment and being passionate about your skill/craft, whatever it might be. There are a LOT of people out there who would benefit from watching this charming film...
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on 8 July 2013
If you only take one thing from this fantastic film , it should be the message that if you want to the best , if you want to beat the rest , dedication's what you need. You can't help but feel a bit sorry for Jiro's eldest son though.
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on 23 February 2014
I've just watched this. It is a well made film about an amazing man, his drive for perfection in the art of making sushi and the impact on his sons, workers and suppliers. If, like me, your experience of sushi has been M&S or a conveyor belt sushi bar, be prepared to adjust your expectations. I found the entire 82 minutes fascinating.
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on 18 January 2015
One of the most charming films I've ever seen. This is the story of someone with a calling who toiled decades to perfect his art and how that has influenced those around him. It's a beautiful story and it's made all the more poetic by the documentary's perfect combination of engaging interviews, beautiful food shots, and entrancing music.
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on 6 May 2015
Sushi is one of the most expensive food in Japanese cuisine, and only when prepared by a type of Sushi chef like Jiro, using the top fresh fish that he goes everyday to procure, taste great.
This is an fantastic documentary of the dedication of Itamae, which in original Japanese meaning 'the one who stands in front of the chopping boar'. Michelin 3 stared top sushi restaurant that needs 1 year prior reservation tells Jiro's ability. And usually cost 300 GBP equivalent up. Quite an art as well as food. One secret Jiro developed is Tare, the sauce that is different from all other sushi restaurant. The secret of his sushi is 3 elements. The way to cook quality rice, the secret sauce, and the absolute freshness and quality of the fish.
Someone goes to Tokyo, share the experience with Amazon customers!
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