Nyotaimori is often referred to as “body sushi”, or with direct translation of the Japanese word 女体盛りwhich means “serve (foods) on the female body”. This is the Japanese practice of serving sashimi or sushi from the naked body of a woman.
This practice is said to have origins in the samurai period in Japan, which was a subculture to the “Geishas” (traditional Japanese female entertainers who act as hostesses) and was a form of celebration after a victorious battle. Though in present time Nyotaimori is performed as an art form, it has been described as decadent, humiliating, cruel and objectifying, but seeing the act first hand and talking to these performers gave me a very different opinion on the whole practice.
Coming to the event I honestly didn’t know what to expect, I’ve never even heard of the practice prior to all of this. At first thought, the idea seemed bizarre, and the idea wasn’t comfortable to me.
Also this was the first ever “Nyotaimori ” performed in Hong Kong, and luckily we were invited by our friends at Mahka (A store located at the heart of Sheung Wan, the booming Art district of Hong Kong). The owners of Mahka are highly collaborative, especially in the Art scene here in Hong Kong so props to them!
The perception of sexuality in Japan is a sensitive topic, in a city very busy and continuously moving forward at a fast pace people tend to lose individualism and just flock amongst the sheep of society. The idea about being naked as a form of Art may be a taboo to many Japanese people, but with the rising women power and more acceptance in society it allows this niche art forms to blossom.
The experience was very spiritual and intimate, the store was decorated in a way that made the whole experience feel like a ritual. There were candles lit which really set the mood, and it had a very relaxed atmosphere. It didn’t feel as if it was something sexual but rather something that appreciates beauty and empowers women.
There were 3 performers in total, 2 to help decorate the main artist, while she lay on the table. But before that the main artist was dressed in a robe and you could barely see her face, she wore beautiful accessories and she danced to the music and was in total sync with it. As she approached the table she stood on a stool and let her robe drop, she wasn’t fully naked but her breasts had pasties and she wore a highly decorated underwear, which to me really portrayed the the strength of the woman’s body and how confident she felt in her own skin. As she lay down the table, you can sense the sheer concentration as she closes her eyes and does not flitch while her companions started decorating her with sushi and other ornaments. After the decorating ended, we were allowed to pick and eat sushi off of her body, and this to me was sort of odd at first but to be completely honest it was a very thrilling experience.
After the show it really changed my perception on nude Art, specially on women. As an Art Form you learn to appreciate it rather than just take it for face value, these artists are passionate of their craft and instead of perceiving it as an act of sexualisation see it as a way to empower women and show their strength. We need to support individualism, thats the only way we can live in unity.
Photo credits to Luna: @clarysalunataran