Back in 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported that the three Michelin-starred restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro—the subject of the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi—would not hire female chefs because they menstruate. "To be a professional means to have a steady taste in your food," said Yoshikazu Ono, Jiro’s son, who works at the famed eatery with his father. "But because of the menstrual cycle women have an imbalance in their taste, and that's why women can't be sushi chefs."
Others in the sushi industry believe that women’s use of cosmetics interferes with their sense of smell and that their higher body temperatures result in warm hands, which is bad for fresh fish. None of it has any basis in science or has been proven true, but the myths persist, resulting in very few women ever entering the profession.
In response to this sexism in the sushi world, in late 2010, Yuki Chizui helped open Nadeshico Sushi, the first sushi restaurant staffed exclusively by female chefs. Five years on, it’s still Japan’s only sushi restaurant where all of the chefs are women, according to The Guardian.
Located in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, Nadeshico Sushi (named for a pink carnation that symbolizes the “ideal woman”) specializes in “fresh and kawaii (cute)” sushi and is headed up by Chizui. The menu features all the sushi staples as well as their kawaii options including a special “deko maki” menu that features sushi rolled into adorable panda, frogs, and hearts, which almost look too good to eat.
While Chizui is not Japan’s only female sushi chef, it’s hard to find women in the kitchen or behind the counter in Japan’s sushi restaurants or listed among the 35,000 sushi chefs on the All Japan Sushi Association.
For Chizui, though, the proof that women can make sushi comes out of Nadeshico Sushi’s kitchen every day. “That’s the best way to answer our critics … to keep proving to our customers that we can make good sushi,” she told The Guardian.
Nadeshico Sushi is located at Chiyoda-ku, Soto kanda 3-12-15, on the second floor of the Chichibu Denki Building in Tokyo.