Have you ever thought of a living, breathing woman serving as a full-fledged dinner plate? Well, it may interest you to know that there is an actual tradition where guests eat sushi rolls off a naked woman’s body.
Among the other bizarre practices in the world, here is another one that traditionally comes from Japan called ‘Nyotaimori’. ‘Nyotaimori’ or ‘body sushi’ is the art of sensualizing food by serving it on the female body. Basically, the woman’s naked body is used as a serving platform for sushi or sashimi. It also uses males for the same purpose but in that case, the name changes to ‘Nantaimori’.
The so-called ‘art’ of Nyotaimori dates back to the 1600s. The practise gained popularity during Japan’s Edo period (1603 – 1867) when the country was fragmented into multiple states with samurai defending their respective regions. In that era when warriors would return from battles, they celebrated their wins in geisha houses that hosted nyotaimori feasts.
Body sushi parties or nyotaimori are still common among organized crime rings like the yakuza, Japan’s mafia. Despite the voyeuristic nature of eating sushi off a naked woman’s body, it is considered a respected tradition in Japanese culture. Gradually, through westernization, it has also become an increasingly popular bachelor party trend in New York and L.A. in particular.
The bizarre culture still persists due to its visual appeal which is considered as an art form. Proponents of nyotaimori appreciate the marriage of food and sensuality, claiming that it heightens the overall culinary experience to feast from a living, breathing, beautiful thing.
Traditional nyotaimori requires a specially trained model who is toned and skilled at remaining perfectly still for up to three or four hours. These models are generally expected not to talk with guests during the service and also be mindful of her breathing habits and the way she’s holding her face.
The sushi is placed on sanitized leaves on the model’s body to prevent the salmon skin from touching the model’s skin. Becoming a human dinner plate also requires the participant to bathe with fragrance-free soap and lower her body temperature by rinsing in cold water. In naked sushi restaurants, they usually serve champagne and sake along with the sushi.
Guests attending such a feast are expected to maintain respectful and strict decorum. Talking with the models is highly discouraged and even inappropriate gestures or comments are not tolerated.
The diners can only pick up sushi with chopsticks to avoid touching the model’s body. Although rules in some restaurants are less stern, allowing guests to nibble nori rolls off nipples if they choose to. Disrespectful behaviour results in a guest being removed from the restaurant.
There are some obvious health concerns related to nyotaimori and to avoid that, most nyotaimori happenings adhere to strict guidelines apart from some exceptions. It is ensured that the sushi never makes contact with the body by typically covering the woman’s body with bamboo leaves, flowers and even plastic wrap on top of which the food is then placed.
The nyotaimori tradition has been received differently around the world, and several countries have banned the practice. China outlawed nyotaimori in 2005 due to public health reasons and moral issues. In Hong Kong, organizers of a brunch event with nyotaimori met with backlash from the public and were accused of sexism under the shroud of art after which the practice was banned.
The sexual objectification of women is probably the most obvious in the process. For what it’s worth, men also pose nude, but the practice is certainly not as widespread.
The practice has been described as decadent, humiliating, degrading, cruel, antiquated, and objectifying. Using a woman as a human sushi table is literally objectifying in that they are being used as furniture or a human sushi platter. Eating sushi off a woman does have a distasteful ring to it. It has also been noticed that the woman being used to serve the food, on at least one occasion in London looked “as if in a morgue, awaiting a postmortem”.
Visual by: Aslam Siddique
Article by Neelchandra Roy, The North-Eastern Chronicle