The other night, Katie and I watched the documentary feature, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the story of 85-year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the most gifted sushi chef in the world. He works with his adult son and a small staff out of a tiny 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant oddly located inside of a Tokyo subway station. Despite that, he has bookings months in advance and was the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a three-star rating from the Michelin Guide. Which is, we hear, a big deal.
Clearly we weren’t jonseing so much on the copious shots of dismembered sealife atop rice or the idea of sushi involving fish et cetera—we’re still very anti-that. What we were into, though, was the idea behind this guy’s life.
Via the film, he introduced to us the Japanese idea of shokunin. According to Tasio Odate:
“The Japanese word shokunin is defined by both Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries as ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan,’ but such a literal description does not fully express the deeper meaning. The Japanese apprentice is taught that shokunin means not only having technical skills, but also implies an attitude and social consciousness.… The shokunin has a social obligation to work his/her best for the general welfare of the people. This obligation is both spiritual and material, in that no matter what it is, the shokunin’s responsibility is to fulfill the requirement.”
And no, I have no idea who Tasio Odate is. Try to search for the dude online. I swear, all you get is that quote.
So, yes, ol’ Tasio could be some random ne’er-do-well who sells meth down by the Yokohama docks, but that’s not the point. The point is, we really like that idea. The idea that what we do is greater than the sum of its parts and that, most importantly, what we do, we do for the purpose of bettering the world, be it through making the most kick-ass sushi this side of anywhere or, say, creating what—in our minds at least—are the best possible designs we can create for our clients.
Doing good work feels good, especially when you’re doing it for good people. Phoning it in—totally does not feel good. Jiro would not phone it in.
So, despite our vegan ethics, we implore you to check out Jiro and his fellow shokunin.
And no, I am not getting that tattooed on the small of my back. Shokunin staaaaaaaaamp!