From Nyotaimori to Body Sushi

From Nyotaimori to Body Sushi

Nyotaimori represents an explicit example of correlation between diet and sexuality which takes on different meaning according to the period and historical context.


Advertising message The term Nyotaimori (女 体 盛 り), literally “serving (food) on the female body”, indicates the practice of eating sashimi or sushi from the body of a typically naked woman. Before being transformed into a living tray of raw fish, the “geisha” undergoes severe training during which she has to lie down for many hours without moving, enduring prolonged exposure to cold food on the body. Women’s hair, especially pubic hair, is completely shaved for hygienic reasons, but also in order to avoid any sexual reference. The woman prepares for the service following a precise liturgy which involves a bath with a special neutral soap and a quick cold shower which, in addition to toning the body, promotes optimal food consumption.

Little is known about the historical roots of Nyotaimori and yet in the West it is spoken of as a traditional example of Japanese ‘perversion’, in recent years often linked to the practice of sitophilia a form of fetish linked to food in which sexual arousal is achieved by eating from the body of another person or using food as a sexual stimulus. Such behavior from the psychoanalytic point of view would be explained through the attachment theory according to which attachment to the mother during the first years of the child’s life is closely linked to the vital function of nutrition that the mother performs.

It has spread to today in luxury restaurants all over the world from the United States of America to Europe: in English it is better known as body sushi or naked sushi.

This practice has received numerous criticisms for its character considered by some “shamefully sexist” and for hygiene rules not always respected, however Nyotaimori, with the passage of time has certainly undergone an evolution, from practice linked to Japanese tradition it has become custom phenomenon in western society thus changing its meaning from a symbolic-relational point of view (Mayukh Sen, 2017)

An important change, perhaps the most common, was the use of underwear first (briefs and bra) by the model until the complete replacement of the female body with inflatable dolls.

This evolution has led, on the one hand, to an improvement of the hygienic-sanitary conditions and to a lower ‘commodification’ of the female figure, but on the other hand, it has significantly compromised the ritualistic aspect of this practice.

The use of undergarments has created a barrier: food and genitality lose their most direct link and take on one mediated by something that stands in the way of their relationship.

The use of inflatable dolls means that human material per se carrier of body heat and therefore of vital energy is replaced by plastic, a cold and sterile material: sushi and sushimi which previously were loaded with heat and energy thanks to contact with the skin now lie on cold plastic material.

The entire meal previously lying on a still but alive body is now consumed on something inanimate.

The evolution of the costume describes the transformation from a definitely more direct and lively sexuality to a perhaps more morally correct, respectful, but above all descriptive of the customs of our western society, in which the mind / body dichotomy is enhanced but perhaps that concept is lost of holism that characterizes Eastern thought.

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Finally, the description of other variants of Nyotaimori: some provide for the participation of both the male and the female subjects in what appears to be a practice of equal opportunities up to practices alien to the Japanese tradition, but of interest from the point of descriptive in the present day, in which the female body is completely replaced by a male one: a naked man covered with Japanese food is served as a meal.

Nyotaimori can take on a strong ritualistic connotation, it is a practice that lends itself well to being carried out in closed places in the presence of a limited number of people. The body becomes an object and takes on an almost metaphysical meaning, people gather around him to share something through food that goes far beyond just eating. Sushi and sushimi are yes food but also become a means of body decoration a bit like the purifying and personal hygiene practices that precede the meal prelude to something that goes well beyond the ground, so that, depending on the context, it almost seems attend a sacrifice or a liturgical act, the female body itself becomes sacred and therefore venerable,