Thursday, January 2, 2014

All I want to do is make better sushi

Came across this clip which was off the 2011 documentary: JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI. It is about an octogenarian Jiro Ono and his unending quest in making a better sushi in his restaurant. That is just about his life sole mission: making better sushi.

Late film critic Roger Ebert had this to say about Jiro:

This is a portrait of tunnel vision. Jiro exists to make sushi. Sushi exists to be made by Jiro. Do the math. Even at the high prices of his premium fresh ingredients, you realize he must be a rich man. But to what end? The existence of his sons are an indication that he has a wife, although we never see her. He must have a home, although we never visit it. There must be hours when he cannot be at work, but the film indicates no amusements, hobbies or pastimes. The idea of his courtship of his wife fascinates me: Forgive me, but I imagine that even while making love, he must be fretting about the loss of valuable sushi-making time.

Standing behind his counter, Jiro notices things. Some customers are left-handed, some right-handed. That helps determine where they are seated at his counter. As he serves a perfect piece of sushi, he observes it being eaten. He knows the history of that piece of seafood. He knows his staff has recently started massaging an octopus for 45 minutes and not half an hour, for example. Does he search a customer's eyes for a signal that this change has been an improvement? Half an hour of massage was good enough to win three Michelin stars. You realize the tragedy of Jiro Ono's life is that there are not, and will never be, four stars.

You can read Roger Ebert's review in full .

But why is Jiro like this and how does this relate to one? It all boils down to SHOKUNIN. Loosely translated,means artisan or craftsman. But the case of every shokunin in Japan lies in perfection of their craft. This spirit which seem to date back to medieval Japan was what they brought into export fueled manufacturing. Gradually giving rise to inexpensive but durable products with just about zero or little defects. And for humans living in late 60 s to the late 80 s we just can't get enough of their products. causing a jump from a nation known for shoddy products to one that seemed unbeatable when it comes to engineering(until Koreans came along). No nation has made made such jump before.

As Africa begins her move from resource based exports to one fueled by manufacturing. It is worth noting that the behavioral mode of her artisans whom would be joining factories to do repetitive tasks daily would add a few points in determining how fast her economy would grow.

If a tailor/carpenter/joiner having conditioned self to make better products, no amount of rhetoric from prelates nor motivational speakers which seem to fill the land would be in need to do it better whether by scale or just as small as Jiro and his sushi restaurant.
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