The Sushi Sexism

As I was reading up about Sushi a few years back, there were some shocking revelations that I found. I kept reading more and more about these misogynistic myths and practices around Sushis, and as I couldn’t find any comprehensive analysis on the issue, decided to jot down my notings.

1. Women shouldn’t eat Sushi:

In Japan, most high-end Sushi Bars of yesteryears, weren’t open to women. These were men-only restaurants, serving some serious food. It was often presumed that women ‘would fail to appreciate’ the art and subtlety of sushi.

2. Women can’t make Sushi:

As the popular conception in Japan goes, to be a sushi chef one doesn’t only have to have amazing knife-skills and an eye for precision, but they also have to be of a certain gender. Son of the legendary sushi chef Jiro Ono (on whose life the movie ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ was made) had famously asserted the same. He was quoted as saying, “To be a professional means to have a steady taste in your food, but because of the menstrual cycle, women have an imbalance in their taste, and that’s why women can’t be sushi chefs.” Myths of women’s fluctuating body temperature also finds mention in the argument. It has only been a decade since women have been allowed to make Sushi or run a sushi bar.

Yuki Chidui. Photo Courtesy: Tokyoweekender.com

But thankfully, a slow yet steady line of women are entering the field today. Nadeshiko Sushi by Yuki Chidui in Tokyo, a sushi restaurant in Japan run exclusively by women, is one of the pioneers in breaking the stereotype.

3. Nyotaimori/Body Sushi:

This refers to the event of sushi ring plated and eaten off the bodies of naked women. While objectification of women is nothing new, this practice of treating humans as a piece of crockery, is certainly unique. This is mostly seen in lavish parties, where the women have to lie still on their backs, for hours on end, pretending to be a plate or a tray of some sort, with Sushis placed over their bodies for the guests to pick up and eat. Well, I don’t even know how to react to this concept. However, outside Japan, this concept has gotten a considerable attention in USA, where there are Nyotaimori restaurants and service providers for private parties.

So sexism in our world is nothing new. It’s there everywhere we look, across all professions and cultures. However, the misogyny in connection with specifically Sushi, in contrast to any other specific food, is certainly noteworthy, and cringeworthy too. It isn’t very shocking, given that Japan is infamous for a deeply patriarchal society, despite its brilliance in other aspects. Let’s hope better sense prevails over those propagating it, and that’s the best we can do.

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