Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Written by: Paul Thompson

Primary Source:  Thornapple CSA

This is another one of those Sundays where I am entrusting the blog to robots at WordPress. If things have gone according to plan, I am actually on my way home from Japan this Sunday. I’ve been in Japan giving an invited lecture at a big soil science conference. I’ve been excited about this for some time. On the one hand, it’s an honor to be invited to give this kind of an address, and an opportunity to do some travel that is a bit out of the ordinary. On the other hand, it’s intimidating to think about standing up in front of an audience of highly trained scientific specialists. And in fact the trip is too short to really provide much opportunity for sightseeing.

But enough about me. This is supposed to be food flics month. I thought I might promote this nice little documentary about a tiny sushi shop in Tokyo that has one of the very few Michelin three star ratings (or at least it did when the film came out in 2011). I might start by saying that although there is absolutely no doubt that this is a food flic, it’s quite different than Food Inc. which we were talking about last week. Although it was very popular, it’s a lot less likely that you’ve seen it, for one thing. I saw it during a theatrical run at the Living Room Theater in Portland, OR. I could go on about the Living Room Theater itself for a while. There are starting to be more and more places like this where you have big, comfortable seats, can get real food (rather than just popcorn and candy), and where there is a place to put your nosh while you are watching the movie. Just like your living room. The food at this particular spot is good enough that they operate a bistro out front for people who have no intention of seeing a movie. Oh yes, and you can usually get a glass of beer or wine at places like this. I want to strongly endorse this trend as fully consistent with the broad contours of food ethics.

But enough about me. This is supposed to be food flics month. Jiro Dreams of Sushi eventually aired as an episode of the PBS Independent Lens series. So there is a fair chance that if you missed the opportunity to catch it in Portland, you might have seen it in your own living room. Of course, this would not have been available for me, because Diane has absolutely forbidden a television set in our living room. We do have one in the kitchen, and I have prevailed upon her for a comfortable chair, where I could indeed watch Independent Lens while sipping my beer or wine.

But enough about me. This is supposed to be food flics month. You don’t need the Thornapple Blog to get a synopsis of Jiro Dreams of Sushi in the event that this would help you make a decision about whether or not to watch it. The Internet is now full of sites where every film ever made has been summarized, dissected and resected by helpful bloggers, critics and literary types. You should just Google it if that’s what you’re looking for. And if by some weird coincidence you did Google Jiro Dreams of Sushi and wound up here at the Thornapple Blog, my sincere apologies. I don’t typically write film summaries or reviews in the blog. September 2015 happens to be some kind of exception due to the confluence of cosmic forces that are beyond human ken.

But enough about me. This is supposed to be food flics month. I partly picked this movie (it’s true) because of the Japan thing we started out with. But enough about me…. However, even before I made this connection I was thinking that this could be one of the films on my list. First of all, it is a very nice little film. Probably not the sort of thing my MSU students are used to seeing, to be sure. No blood and gore (at least if you discount the scene with the tuna buyer down at the Tokyo fish market). No sex that I can recall. “Tuna” is not a euphemism in this film. It does have a little bit of family drama, as Jiro’s sons are, perhaps, not given credit where credit is due. (This less by Jiro than by those who celebrate him, which would, oddly, include the filmmakers themselves. Literary types love little ironies like that.)

But enough about me. This is supposed to be food flics month. The film also does document what it takes to run a three star sushi shop, and it’s pretty interesting. There are some ties to food ethics in here I think, but it looks like I’m getting to the end of the blog without getting around to them. Make them up for yourself, I say, or complain to the robots who are in charge this week.

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Paul Thompson
Paul B. Thompson holds the W. K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. He formerly held positions in philosophy at Texas A&M University and Purdue University. His research has centered on ethical and philosophical questions associated with agriculture and food, and especially concerning the guidance and development of agricultural technoscience.
Paul Thompson

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