Then I got home and read Ebert's review. This paragraph hit me like a punch to the stomach and put it all in perspective:
"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."
I would actually urge any westerner to go study a semester or two of Japanese language (not culture), purely for the calm insight it can provide into the alternatives to our way of seeing, understanding, and acting upon the world.
I have to agree with this. The first foreign language I studied was French, and it taught me almost nothing - everything was so similar to English that most things were just a matter of memorization and one-to-one conversion. I quickly lost interest.
But Japanese has been entirely different. When you speak in Japanese, the way you think is different from when you speak in a Western language, such as English. The culture is inextricably tied to the language, and if you learn the language and then get a chance to actually visit the country and use it in real-life situations, it all clicks - why the language is structured how it is, and how it shapes all of Japanese society into its unique form.
Also, I would rewatch the last few seconds of the film re: is he happy. Just because the man's relaxation time is not part of the film doesn't mean he doesn't have any, and it certainly doesn't mean he's not happy.
Here's Jiro. Jiro is successful, and let's explore what he does. It's so freaking simple when you look at it, right? He practices and practices. He's meticulous, he's a perfectionist. And wow, look at those Michelin stars. And look at how people line up months in advance to eat at his restaurant.
I was so dazzled by the simplicity and success of Jiro that I totally forgot there could be any cost to this. And the filmakers never took us there. Like Ebert points out, we never got to meet his wife. And what other damage was caused by this drive to success? Was there any at all? Again, something that fully deserved to be explored. Or was the movie just a tribute to the success of Jiro?
My CEO will never be Jiro. He may think he's Jiro. Hell, he also thinks he's Steve Jobs. But when I hear him on the phone again for the nth evening telling his son he won't be home because some VC term sheet has an incorrectly-crossed T...I just have to sit back and think it's not fucking worth it. EVER. No matter how much we worship the IPOs and fuck-you-money-level-exits on HN, there are thousands of kids sitting at home wondering if their parents will be home to tuck them in that night.
1) ... but those that want and realized the cost of achieving that decided not to.
2) ... there are only a few handful that decided to pursue it regardless the cost.
Cost here usually means family.
But Jiro also illustrates that to reach the top of some crafts your dedication must border on sociopathy.
After watching this movie you may be tempted to find your nearest high quality sushi restaurant, sit at the bar and ask the Chef to make you whatever he sees fit. This is a delicious but very expensive idea. I did get to try a number of dishes that I would never have ordered though ... all thanks to Jiro.
If you are in DC I highly recommend the tasting menu at Sushi Taro. Very similar experience to the film - 10 courses of amazing food (although it includes some non sushi items as well).
Available for free streaming with Amazon Prime:
Or streaming for Netflix subscribers:
I'm not surprised that they were very friendly. Most of the people in the documentary stated that Jiro has a "stern" appearance when he's making sushi. From my experience, I find that people often mistake concentration for anger.
It also wasn't as rushed as I've read, though it wasn't a full house when I went. The course lasted at least a half hour, then we were seated at a table with watermelon and tea and however much time we wanted to wind down.
--A Fish Vendor
I agree with the Roger Ebert quote that it's clear he sacrificed much of his family life to obtain this mastery. Jiro even admits that he wasn't a good father. However, if you love what you do, as he does, then I can't fault him for it. We'd be so fortunate to have that kind of passion.
If this is the mindset that you take towards your work, you will naturally seek out the best in your field and learn what they do best to incorporate it into your own approach.
I'm not particularly a fan of the "software craftsman" moniker/movement but I think there can be craft to it. Technologies come and go but programming language paradigms, core algorithms, and fundamental ways of working with code tend to remain similar across the decades.