End of the line for Akihabara’s barrier-challenging Nadeshiko Sushi.

There are a lot of sushi restaurants in Japan, which means there are a lot of sushi chefs in the country too. What there aren’t very many of, though, are female sushi chefs.

As in a lot of countries, men outnumber women in restaurant kitchens in general Japan. But at sushi restaurants, it’s extremely unusual to see a woman slicing fish and pressing rice to make nigiri, hosomaki, or any other kind of sushi, with some gourmands claiming they simply can’t do it as well as men. One reason that’s sometimes given for that opinion is the claim that women have warmer hands than men, which aversely affects the flavor or texture of hand-pressed sushi. Other rationales have included beliefs that perfume or makeup impacts the olfactory senses and even that menstruation can confuse the taste buds, leaving female chefs unable understand the delicate flavors of proper sushi.

All of those claims are more than a little debatable, though, and a challenge to them came in October 2010 with the opening of Nadeshiko Sushi in Tokyo’s Akihabara district. The word “Nadeshiko” refers to an earnest, elegant woman, and Nadeshiko Sushi proudly billed itself as the first sushi restaurant in Japan where all of its sushi chefs were women in their late teens and early 20s, who had completed training courses at Tokyo Sushi Academy.

▼ A plate of Nadeshiko Sushi sushi

Unfortunately, Nadeshiko Sushi has closed down. It’s hard to tell exactly when the restaurant shut down, either. On popular Japanese restaurant review site Tabelog, the last customer review is from April of this year, but Nadeshiko Japan’s official Twitter account was still posting for several months after that.

▼ Nadeshiko Sushi’s last tweet was on September 5, when the restaurant thanked a customer for coming in on August 29. “We’ll see you next time,” the tweet ironically ends.

But while the timing is indeterminate, there’s no mistaking that Nadeshiko Sushi is now shut down. Its official website now consists entirely of an undated text notice from the restaurant’s manager, Yuki Chizui, stating “We are no longer operating in Akihabara. We are now operating in different locations at irregular intervals, so please contact us by email for reservations.” That’s an odd set of supposed operating circumstances, though. If Nadeshiko Sushi has shifted to a pop-up restaurant enterprise, operating in whatever short-term venues it can find, it wouldn’t be asking diners to make the first step by emailing them, and if Nadeshiko Sushi has pivoted to a catering service, potential customers themselves would be the ones supplying/offering the location.

▼ A photo posted this less than a week ago shows a dismantling crew removing fixtures from the Nadeshiko Sushi (なでしこ寿司) restaurant in Akihabara, right by the vending machines we bought ramen in a can from.

There hasn’t been any official explanation from Nadeshiko Sushi as to why they closed down, but hopefully all of its chefs who were trying to establish long-term careers in the sushi world can still find another way to do so.

Sources: Nadeshiko Sushi, Hachima Kiko, Value Press, Tabelog
Top image: Pakutaso
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