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First All-Female Sushi Restaurant in Japan Is Still Kind of Sexist

Almost Totally Excellent

For centuries in Japan, the sushi world was a man’s world. And while women have become sushi chefs in recent years, the idea of an all-female sushi restaurant has some traditional men freaking out. “Their hands are too hot!” “Makeup makes them too impure!” “I can’t compete with attractive women!” Guess what, Old School? It’s our turn! Nadeshico Sushi is the first sushi restaurant in Japan with an all-female staff of sushi chefs. Although, if you’re thinking about applying to be a sushi chef, it helps if you’re less than 25. And very cute. So, there’s that.

Translated, “Nadeshico” means “ideal woman.” And while there is certainly a score for hitting the glass ceiling of the sushi industry, there are definitely some ageist, sexist elements about this whole thing. Yes, it’s awesome and groundbreaking for Japan to feature a sushi restaurant in which all the chefs are female. And the opinion absolutely exists that the sushi industry is ready to allow women to become a significant and equal part of it. To say nothing of the men who completely support having female counterparts.

But in order to become a chef at Nadeschico Sushi, you need to be 18-25. And considering how many years of training are involved in sushi (some say as much as 10), how well-versed in the art of sushi are these chefs? Chefs only train for two months at Nadeshico. And chances are that experienced chefs will not be serving you at the bar. The owner, Kazuya Nishikiori, says he aims to create a new model for working women in Japan, but adds that “If someone wanted to work here and was 30, I’d put her in the back.” The reason for this is to keep the restaurant living up to its slogan, “fresh and kawaii” (which means “cute”). Great.

He also admits that his “fresh and kawaii” chefs cannot compete with Michelin star-level sushi chefs. Some have even called the sushi “awful,” but have nothing but compliments for the chefs themselves. Because they’re cute.

So, is Nadeshico the Hooters of sushi? Probably not, since the women behind the counter do want to be actual chefs, albeit while titillating their clientele (which is 90% male). And it’s not as if they’re putting on maid outfits and putting on shows while serving, like their neighbors in the Akihabara district.

It’s a step. A pandering, slightly icky step, but a step nonetheless.

(Wall Street Journal)

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