If you're looking for a spicy tuna roll with a side of breasts and awkward conversation, look no further than the practice of nyotaimori. Despite its voyeuristic nature, eating sushi off a naked woman's body is a respected tradition in Japanese culture, dating as far back as the early 1600s. Through Westernization, it has also become an increasingly popular bachelor party trend and drawn criticism from those who label the event as objectifying, degrading and anti-feminist. Before you decide where you stand, here's what you need to know:
Where Did Nyotaimori Originate?
The practice gained in popularity during Japan’s Edo period (1603 – 1867). The country was fragmented into multiple states with samurai defending their respective regions. When warriors would return from battles, they’d celebrate their wins in geisha houses that hosted nyotaimoris. Body sushi parties were and are also common among organized crime rings like the yakuza, Japan’s equivalent to the Sicilian mafia. To put things in perspective, it’d be like naked women donning spaghetti and meatballs in The Godfather.
Why Does Nyotaimori Exist?
In both past and present times, its visual appeal is considered an art form. Proponents appreciate the marriage of food and sensuality, claiming that it heightens the overall culinary experience to feast from a living, breathing, beautiful thing. We’re just happy that the wasabi tray is served separate from the body.
How Do You Prepare Nyotaimori?
You’re going to need a trained sushi chef (duh) who doesn’t mind taking a backseat and letting the food and naked woman do the metaphorical talking. Next, you’re going to need a brave model. Traditionally, these women are toned (muscles keep the sushi in place) and skilled at remaining perfectly still for up to three or four hours. Aside from not being able to engage with customers during the service, the model must also be mindful of her breathing habits and the way she’s holding her face. Becoming a human dinner plate also requires the participant to bathe with fragrance-free soap and lower her body temperature. The latter can be accomplished by rinsing in cold water.
What Are the Risks of Nyotaimori?
There are obvious health concerns, but most nyotaimori happenings adhere to strict guidelines that ensure the sushi never makes contact with the body (There are exceptions where sushi is placed directly on models. The nipples are one of the most common spots, because ‘merica). Women are typically covered with bamboo leaves, flowers and even plastic wrap to serve as a barrier between skin and salmon skin roll.
The sexual objectification of women is probably the most obvious. For what it's worth, men also pose nude (it’s called nantamoiri), but the practice is certainly not as widespread. If you're searching for an inside look, check out this model’s Reddit thread for a unique firsthand account. (Spoiler alert: she enjoys her side career and her experiences don't smell fishy.)