Eating sushi from a naked woman’s body is a storied practice, but some say it’s objectifying, antiquated, and degrading. The Japanese art of nyotaimori is a storied cultural practice believed to have its roots in Japan’s premodern samurai era. It involves eating a buffet of sushi or sashimi off a nude woman’s body as she lays near-motionless on a table. As the practice has crept out of Japan and the particular cultural context in which it was born, it’s more frequently become coded as degrading and inherently sexualized, toeing the uneasy line between elegance and objectification.
Just take a look at the critics of Hong Kong restaurant Fang Fang, which, as the South China Morning Post reported earlier on Tuesday, recently cancelled the nyotaimori performance for a brunch that’s scheduled for this Saturday. The ‘Japanese Cabaret Brunch Party’ was orchestrated by Nyotaimori Tokyo, an organization founded in 2015 devoted to preserving the tradition of nyotaimori, and held in conjunction with French wine importer Vines and Terroirs.
The restaurant’s decision to cancel the nyotaimori performance came in response to widespread blowback it received on Facebook after publicizing the event on Monday. Commenters felt that the event trafficked on the objectification of the female body, all in service of the consumer’s pleasure with little regard for the feelings of the model subjected to this state.
Valentin Murel, Co-Founder of Vines and Terrors, claimed that the event was spotless in intent, meant to resuscitate and modernize an old tradition. But this was meager justification for holding this event in 2017, according to the performance’s critics. “Just because it’s traditional doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to revive it,” one commenter wrote in response to Murel, while another argued that the event was “egregiously sexist” in conception.
So, to clarify: The brunch is still happening. Everyone will just be wearing clothes.