In the middle of the 1960’s a chef in the Eastern part of Germany (GDR) had the idea of a Japanese restaurant. But for sure, this wasn’t easy in this communist country. Now a movie tells the story of Rolf Anschütz and his Japanese dream.
Rolf Anschütz was the chef of the „Waffenschmied“ (the armorer) – a wine restaurant with traditional Thuringian meals just like sausages, potato dumplings and beef roulade. But while his daily routine he began to want something new – something exotic. After reading a book about the world’s kitchens he started to dream about Japanese meals. Though this was difficult in Germany with its planned economy Anschütz started to put his dream into practice with some really simple ideas. The leg of chairs and tables were cut to set a Japanese atmosphere, kitchen aprons with flower pattern were sewed like kimonos as geisha dress for the women and the sticks of his son’s drums were the model for chopsticks. For the lack of original Japanese ingredients Anschütz was very creative, too. Rice pudding was used as sushi rice, carps from the nearby lake replaced salmon and Worcestershire sauce became soy sauce.
Anschütz served the first Japanese dinner only for his friends, but soon other people and the press became interested in this new concept. When a Japanese man came to his restaurant for the first time, Anschütz was very nervous, but his way of making Japanese meal convinced the Japanese man and later he also was taught traditional Japanese cooking methods.
The government of the GDR didn’t like the idea of a Japanese restaurant in their country, but they tolerated it after a while. In 1973 Japan and the GDR got into diplomatic contact and so the only Japanese restaurant in the GDR became even more popular as meeting point for famous people. The capacity reached its limit and as a normal citizen you had to wait for around two years if they wanted to get a table there. A visit also included a ritual cleaning bath where everyone had to undress. Starting 1980 the ingredients came from Düsseldorf – the stronghold of Japanese culture at this time - and later they were shipped directly from Japan. With the fall of the Berlin Wall Anschütz’s dream was over, since people could now travel around the world and the Japanese restaurant lost its exclusiveness.
The movie “Sushi in Suhl” tells this story in a lovely and funny way with many clichés about the living in the GDR. It also tells how Anschütz’s relationship to his family and friends gets broken through all the fame. The position of the government is illustrated very interested, too. On one hand they are against the Japanese restaurant, but on the other hand they see this as a good connection for political relationships with this far and mighty country. The movie shows Anschütz first visit in Japan where he has some troubles and don’t really get used to the modern life in Tokyo.
I personally enjoyed watching the movie. However I was surprised that my friends and I were the youngest people in cinema. Most viewers know Anschütz’s restaurant from their own memories – if they went there or if they only wanted to but never were able. This movie reawakened memories in many people in Germany and nearly everyone has to tell his own personal story about it.
The official cinema release in Germany was on 18 October 2012. Some English websites have covered the movie and there was an article in Japanese newspaper. Maybe you will be able to watch the movie in English or Japanese soon, as the movie is only available in German language so far.
Title: Sushi in Suhl
Director: Carsten Fiebeler
Cast: Uwe Steimle (Rolf Anschütz), Julia Richter (Ingrid Anschütz), Ina Paule Klink (Gisela), Gen Seto (Dr. Hayashi) and many more
Release Year: 2012
Runtime: 107 min
Official website: sushi-in-suhl.de