Tsukiji and Sushi

“Ultimate simplicity leads to purity”. This is the most memorable quotation from Jiro Dreams of Sushi, in my opinion.

When I think of food, it is true that you can best appreciate the richness of texture and flavor of a food when it is prepared simply.

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi – Trailer from curious on Vimeo.

I was talking to a friend in Tokyo about my plans to visit Tsukiji, when he mentioned that I should first watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I was spending the night in a hotel room, and opted for an early (Friday) night but got to watch the movie when I returned to Nagoya last night. For some reason, the rows upon rows of concreted tuna looks macabre in a way the they did not up close. Up close, they looked frozen but in the movie, they seemed to be looking right at me.

To visit Tsukiji, I woke up at 4 am. When I got the wake up call, I was tempted to give it a miss, but I figured ganbatte and got out if bed. I was number 61 at the Fukyu Osakana Center when I got there at 4:32 a.m. I was hoping to be in the early tour at 5:25 but I was one person too late, so I had to wait for the late tour at 5:50 a.m. Only 120 total participants are allowed in the two tours. Thankfully, we were corralled into two holding spaces where we were grouped by vest color. I wore a blue vest (but I have no proof of this because I was barely awake and horrified at the thought of capturing my barely awakeness on SD).

Promptly at 5:50 a.m., blue vest group was lead to the tuna auction house. What a sight! Rows upon rows of tuna on both sides of our little viewing area, which is delineated by ropes.

As bells began to clang, the excitement built and the auctioning started. It moved fairly quickly and the signals are so subtle that I never knew who was betting. There appeared to be boxes of sliced tuna as well as whole fish. After an auction winds down, there is a short period of calm before another one starts, focusing on another row of tuna. In between auctions, you can watch the men meticulously examining the tuna with flashlights and picks.

I wasn’t sure the trip to Tsukiji would be worth it. I thought it might be one of those things where people exaggerate the experience. I was proven wrong. I had never seen such an energetic exercise with such fine attention to detail. As I watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I could make the connection between the art and perfectionist of top sushi chefs and that of their suppliers. There is focus on relationships, and such pride in and appreciation for excellent quality.

I think that Jiro Dreams of Sushi demonstrates some of the things about Japanese society that makes it challenging: perfectionism, impatience, family pressure, the shame of failure. There’s passion and dedication and love of one’s job too, as well as attention to detail and pride in doing excellent work. I appreciate this about Japan. Yet I wonder, what suffers as a result of perfectionism? When you choose perfectionism in one thing, what do you knowingly or inadvertently give up as a consequence? And when you have a gift or a “talent”, do you have a responsibility to fulfil that potential?

I highly recommend watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi and if you happen to be in the Tokyo are on day when Tsukiji is open, visit it: