The sushi restaurant where United States President Barack Obama is expected to dine with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday night is perhaps most well-known for being the subject of the 2011 American documentary, Jiro Dreams Of Sushi.
Directed by David Gelb, the 81-minute film focused on Jiro Ono (above centre), the 88-year-old sushi master who is lauded for his discipline and unending pursuit of perfection.
His restaurant, the small and unassuming Sukiyabashi Jiro, is tucked away in the basement of a business building in Tokyo, a minute's walk from Ginza train station (exit C6).
Here are five things you should know about the place:
1. It has three Michelin stars
The store is bestowed with three Michelin stars, an honour that has been renewed every year since 2007.
This is not surprising considering he has been making sushi since he left home at the age of nine. Born on Oct 27, 1925 in Shizuoka Prefecture, he is considered a national treasure. He is often extolled as a shokunin, or an artisan.
His daily routine is unchanging: He goes to work by taking the train, and does not like holidays. With such dedication comes a price - dining there costs at least 30,000 yen (S$368) per person.
2. There is another outpost
Ono's younger son, Takashi, runs the only outpost of Sukiyabashi Jiro in Roppongi. This is about 5km away from the original store at Ginza, where Ono works.
The layout of the Roppongi outlet is an exact mirror image of the original. This is because Ono is left-handed and Takashi is right-handed.
Yoshikazu, the older one, works under his father at the Ginza restaurant, and is expected to succeed him.
3. It is tough to get reservations
As those who have watched the documentary would have known, the sushi bar only has 10 seats by its counter. Customers who want to secure a place have to book about one to two months in advance. It is often fully booked, earning it a reputation as one of the hardest restaurants in the world to get a reservation.
4. One item on the menu
There is only one item on the menu - a set consisting some 20 pieces of sushi. These are served in a specific order by the chef to ensure that customers enjoy their sushi's taste to the fullest. Customers do not get to pick the sushi they are served, and the store serves different items daily.
5. Try not to wear any perfume
Customers are not encouraged to wear perfume to the store, as it may interfere with the taste of the raw fish.
Sukiyabashi Jiro is at Tsukamoto Sogyo Building, B1F 4-2-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo (tel: +81-3-3535-3600).
This article was published on April 23 in The Straits Times.
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