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Most of the dining room has been cleared, except for two rows of counter-height tables, which are actually three square tabletops pushed together. On each combined table—one row across the floor from the bar, another near the far wall—a padded mat is covered in a silky tablecloth. June, age 31, is here for a modeling job, of sorts, and this is her runway. A tub of cold beers is covered in ice; a DJ adjusts his sound equipment.
June emerges wearing black flats and a pink robe with black lining and Asian patterns. She sheds the robe and lies on the table as the chef and his team approach with trays of raw fish. Rectangular pieces of slate holding pyramids of sushi are balanced across her shins, thighs, and pelvis. Banana leaves sit between her skin and several pieces of nigiri on her abdomen, arranged to resemble the pattern of her bones. Her narrow waistline proves a tough spot to lay raw fish; the nigiri is unsteady as it rests where her ribs create a slant to her stomach.
Two flowers give minimal coverage to her breasts, and more flowers are scattered around her in an artful display. At 10 p. A young crowd starts to fill the room, many mixed-gender groups and couples. Their backs are to June as they face the bar, looking at their drinks and sharing awkward glances. Minutes later, a man in a blue polka dot button-up shirt approaches the table. He takes a plate, some soy sauce, and a set of chopsticks. Others follow, then more, and more.
There are five people in the kitchen, and they can barely roll sushi fast enough to keep some on the model. Seaweed wrapper.
The pace is relentless in the kitchen, but Chef Travis Garrett keeps presentation beautiful. The display, after all, is meant to be art. Another slate of sushi, and out to the model it goes. The new sushi is set out, and three, four, five pairs of chopsticks are pinching above June. Some are unsteady, and sushi tumbles to the floor. She lies still as the rice brushes against her.
Couples approach, and girlfriends point out the sushi they want to their boyfriends, who hold the chopsticks. The section of the dining room surrounding June, a corner station serving beer and wine, and the full bar is packed. She has become the center of the room, the groups around her now facing her, drinks and sushi in hand. In fact, I found very little reliable information; most articles referred to nyotaimori vaguely as an ancient Japanese practice.
Then I talked to Chef Mark Scharaga, owner of one of the most well-known body sushi caterers, Nyotaimori Experience, which now hosts parties across the country. Scharaga graduated from UNC Wilmington in and began working for a software company, staying in the industry for nearly 10 years. He briefly moved to Richmond, Virginia, for a job and took on additional part-time work as a sushi chef, later opening his own part-time sushi catering business. He relied on friends in Japan to help him. They found the first mention of nyotaimori back in the Shogun period of Japan, around the s, when returning warriors supposedly ate sushi off geishas.
More recently, he says, the Japanese mafia picked up the practice, kidnapping girls and using them as their sushi platters. InScharaga rebranded his company Nyotaimori Experience. Most of his business at the time was in Durham. It then spread to Charlotte, and on to Atlanta. Back then, it was still a curiosity for people, he says. When naked women are used as serving platters, though, the question surfaces: Where is the line between art and objectification?
Furthermore, having an Asian female lie atop a table and allow food to be eaten off her furthers the expectation that Asian women are passive, voiceless—and they are willingly, happily so. Wearing black athletic pants and a black zip-up over a workout tank top, she meets training partner James Adams inside. To win in her division, she has to be just muscular enough, just lean enough. The two chat about bodybuilding supplements over the sounds of the gym: the clash of weights meeting weights, bars falling to the floor after a deadlift, grunts of exertion.
Today, June and Adams are working on shoulders. Doing four or five exercises a day focusing on one muscle group helps them build muscle, they explain. Adams asks June how many times she ate today. June sits down and lifts her hands Girl at mature chat room chopstix in Charlotte the bar for a seated barbell shoulder press. She starts with pound weights on each side of the pound bar, making her warm-up set 65 pounds. Adams holds lightly onto the bar as June counts. With each press, the weights pop above her as she makes the final effort to straighten her arms upward.
Between her reps, June takes her place behind the bar and spots Adams, hands ready to catch pounds, should his arms slip. They switch places again. With each set of exercises, the weights get heavier. Three sets, and they move on. June grabs her pink water bottle for a sip of water with supplements from VPX, the company she promotes as a rep and model. This one helps keep the muscles from breaking down, she explains, before pushing those muscles to lift even more.
Pulls at 85 pounds, lateral raises at 50 pounds, Arnold presses named for Arnold Schwarzenegger with pound free weights. At the end, she has a small patch of sweat between her ribs. She attended UNC Charlotte, where she studied biology and later psychology. June, a bodybuilder, focuses on working out a different muscle group each day to prepare for competitions. It was inspiring.
When she started college, June planned on becoming a high school biology teacher. But while working as a substitute teacher in public high school science classes, she missed the inspiration she found at the gym. She decided to make that inspiration into her career. She has watched her own body change since then, building muscle by working out and dieting frequently. I ask her if she feels uneasy at all about acting as a plate for the evening.
Before my question, she explains the process of competition judging and how it felt standing on the stage for the first time, ready to learn if your hard work has been enough. Lying naked on a table in front of regular people? This is just another modeling job. AT P. After an announcement that her shift is about to end and a last call for photos, the staff members come out to remove the sushi from her body and help her down. She slips back into the pink robe and her shoes. She laughs, saying she wished people had used their hands to get their sushi—most stumbled with the chopsticks.
People come over to tell her she did a great job. A group of girls has turned the space near the DJ into a dance floor, and voices are louder, slower. She seems to appreciate the gesture, gratefully taking the plate. She enjoys the smell of it for a minute, and puts it down on the table. She gets a to-go box. her at kristen.
Current Issue. About Us Advertise. In the Raw: Naked Sushi Night in Charlotte Late at night in dining rooms and restaurants, adults are throwing a different type of dinner party—one in which sushi comes served on a nude model. May 27, Kristen Wile .
This article appears in the June issue of Charlotte magazine. Related Stories. Inside the Fight for Charlotte's Future.
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In the Raw: Naked Sushi Night in Charlotte