Sushi Rolls Come Before Gender Roles in the First All-Female Chef Restaurant in Japan
"Sushi rolls not gender roles" takes on a literal meaning at this sushi restaurant run by all women in Tokyo's electric city district.
Nestled among the anime fan subcultures and arcades is Nadeshico Sushi, which proudly advertises "sushi made by women." While the popularity of this Japanese cuisine has skyrocketted over the years, there's one myth that's been holding most women back from getting involved.
"To be a professional means to have a steady taste in your food, but because of the menstrual cycle women have an imbalance in their taste, and that's why women can't be sushi chefs," said Yoshikazu Ono, son of Sukiyabashi Jiro who was the subject of 2011 documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."
In an article for Broadly, the author recalled their trip to Nadeschico Sushi: "What is most noticeable is the presence of women behind the counter, rolling sushi; but also how every one of these women embrace their own individuality, as they engage in dialogue with their customers as they prepare dishes. In breaking with traditional convention where old men serve their customers in silence, the restaurant comes with a set of gender dynamics that would never exist elsewhere."
Another employee of the restaurant, Chidui, opens up about another myth that has held women back from pursuing careers as sushi chefs.
"The myth that women aren't allowed to do the job because of their warm hands is nonsense," said Chidui. "As soon as I heard that there is an opportunity for women to roll sushi here, I knew I wanted to be here doing it. If men who have colder hands than me aren't disqualified from doing the job through the use of ice packs to cool down their hands, I don't see how us women can't do the same."
She goes on to mention how she wasn't allowed to roll a single piece of sushi during the six years she worked in a previous sushi restaurant because of her gender. "I was the only female member of staff at the restaurant," she said. "I made sure to learn the trick of the trade by the time I finished there during my student years."
Despite these gender barriers, she remains optimistic and is determined to fight for gender equality within the industry.
"Despite these challenges, I am encouraged by the girls who have sustained their interest," she concludes. "I always knew I wanted to take charge in this so that we can foster a generation of sushi chefs who will follow in our footsteps. Ultimately, I want there to be a sushi that's done the Nadeshico way. I want our hard work to become a movement."
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