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Design and photo credit: Cecilie Ellefsen, an illustrator based in Norway (www.happymeat.com)

Sushi, from preparation to tasting is an art. And in some cases, it is quite an experience to have them served, beautifully laid on a nude woman. Bizarre? Yes! As much as we may ridicule or criticise the concept, I am sure given a chance to experience it, most of us would find it difficult to say no. Mostly out of curiosity (I am hoping).

Nyotaimori or body sushi is a Japanese artform of serving sushi and sashimi using a human body as the platter. The word literally translates to ‘adorned body of a woman’. The concept is believed to have originated in Japan centuries ago while some theories suggest that it was formulated during the economic boom in the 1980s to lure rich businessmen to spending their money.

Art is subjective, so we know. The chances of you not being on the same platform as the artist is higher than the other way around. Nevertheless, it is an individual’s right to expression. The sushi chefs who specialise in Nyotaimori strongly believe in its aesthetic value. This artform is an attempt at merging the sensual pleasures of body and food in a disciplined manner. However, for the sake of entertainment, this discipline is commonly misused more often now than before.

Like all chefs who are particular about sparkling clean dishes to present their creations, Nyotaimori chefs too require the human platter to posses flawless beautiful skin and be bathed in fragrant water before laying out the sushi. As per the US laws, the human platter in American restaurants are required to be covered with a sheath atop which the chef then aesthetically arranges the sushi.

Sushi-Jerome Birling

Photo credit: Jerome Birling

In all this food-cum-art fuss what I fail to understand is how does one lie completely lifeless in an environment bustling with energy and nonstop chitter chatter? How does one restrain herself from twitching or conversing with a curious diner? Melanie Berliet, author of the article titled ‘Confessions of a Naked Sushi Model’ in Vanity Fair some years back, had mentioned that it wasn’t an easy job. She had struggled for about two hours to lie down completely still, nude, adorned with some flowers/ leaves/ seashells and cold sushi, be the subject of speculation and have diners pricking her body with chopsticks.

I guess there is no end to art or entertainment! And it doesn’t come easy. For a nyotaimori experience one needs to shell out anywhere between 1500 USD to 12000 USD. The diners who have splurged in nyotaimori claim that it is an experience hard to forget. After the initial thrill/ bewilderment, one actually starts to accept the concept of a human platter and the nude body means nothing more than a mere object. Strange but true.

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