The film outlines Jiro's incredible dedication to his pursuit of the perfect sushi, the career paths of his sons Yoshikazu and Takashi and various apprentices, the fine details of sushi-making, of selecting the right fish, and so on, interspersed with shots of delicious sushi and set to a Philip Glass soundtrack.
This film contains examples of:
- Always Someone Better:
- Yoshikazu knows that when he eventually inherits the restaurant, he will always be seen as inferior to his father unless his sushi is twice as good as what Jiro made.
- Jiro himself mentions how he wishes he had Joel Robuchon's sense of smell and taste, imagining how good his sushi would be if he was as sensitive as Robuchon.
- Takashi mentions that although he serves the same food as his father, he has to lower his prices to keep customers coming in (of course, reducing it from 30,000 yen—that's $300—isn't that much of a hit), and has two Michelin stars. (Most chefs would kill for just one.)
- Badass Grandpa: Jiro. He's 85 at the time of filming. The only thing he's changed in his rigorous schedule is that after he was hospitalized at 70, he quit smoking and stopped going to the fish market himself, leaving that (the fish market, that is) to Yoshikazu.
- Food Porn: One common reaction to the movie is that it's 82 minutes of just pure food porn. It is. The ingredients and sushi are all lovingly and artfully presented; many who see the movie say that if you haven't eaten immediately before watching, you'd better have reservations right afterward, because you will be hungry.
- Heir to the Dojo: Jiro pushed his sons into sushi-making, when they had dreams of going to college and doing other things (Yoshikazu mentions wishing he had had the chance to be a racing driver). Yoshikazu will inherit Jiro's restaurant, while Takashi runs a literal mirror-image (because Takashi is right-handed where Jiro is left-handed) branch restaurant in Roppongi Hills. Because of their training from a young age, they were top-notch sushi chefs far younger than average.
- Minimalism: An ongoing theme. The cinematography is very simple. Jiro's sushi preparations are noted to be absolutely minimalistic and pure—no fancy multi-layered rolls for him. And the soundtrack is dominated by Philip Glass, the canonical Minimalist composer.
- Tokyo Subways: Sukiyabashi Jiro is located just outside the ticket gates at Ginza Station on the Tokyo Metro.
- Supreme Chef: Jiro and his sons are all legendary sushi chefs.
- Training from Hell: Jiro's apprentices start by squeezing the hot towels presented to the guests. The water is scalding and burns their hands—but if the apprentice can't hand-squeeze the towels, he won't be able to hack the next ten years of training.
- Workaholic: Jiro works from 5AM to 10 PM. He hates holidays; he'd always rather be working.