“Why is this naked woman talking while I’m trying to eat sushi off of her breast?”
It’s a question you’d never think that you’d be asking yourself—or a situation that you’d ever imagine would actually be annoying.
I’m attending a nyotaimori (Japanese for “female body presentation,” but translations can vary) at a private residence, with people I’ve never met. Sue (real name withheld) has a tiger roll on her breast and a dragon roll on her navel, among other assorted sashimi and sushi.
The Japanese naked-sushi traditional came to international attention in 2010 with an article in The Guardian, and briefly landed in a few high-end big-city establishments. Of course, it passed over Utah—until this private invite came along.
I expected nyotaimori to be a formalized ceremony; I imagined Japanese bourgeois partaking in naked sushi solemnly, as if interacting with a piece of art—the beauty of the human body meets the beauty of the culinary arts.
Most of Sue is covered with rose petals and banana leaves, which serve as “plates.” Ten people sit around her and use chopsticks to remove each piece of fish. Then, one woman pinches Sue’s nipple with the eating utensil. Sue laughs. Her breasts, and the sushi on them, jiggle; she says she liked it. Sue makes a quick joke, then tells a story. This is not what I had in mind.
My only barometer was a visit to Japan years ago, when I only partook in “traditional” food culture by bellying up to subway bars where sushi meandered past on a conveyer belt. Since attending this nyotaimori, I’ve heard that it isn’t exactly elegant, and generally occurs in seedy sex districts in Tokyo.
Would I try nyotaimori again? Maybe. One friend joked that we should host one ourselves—kind of like a potluck.