Inside Tokyo's Akihabara district is restaurant Nadeshiko Sushi, which appears similar to other eateries in the area. They serve fresh, authentic cuisine. The restaurant features smaller, intimate tables and a sushi bar. The walls are lined with traditional Japanese décor. And the sushi is handmade to perfection.
However, there is one notable thing that makes this sushi restaurant different than all others in the area.
All of the chefs at this sushi restaurant are women.
Yuki Chizui, a 29-year-old former textile worker, founded this restaurant just a few years ago and has served as its head chef. Most sushi chefs spend years as an apprentice before opening their own establishments, but Chizui wanted to destroy the stereotype that young people — and especially young women — can't run their own sushi restaurants.
"It's all about having the confidence," Chizui said to The Guardian. "The hours are long and the work can be physically tough, so that's why some people believe women are not up to it. If they want it badly enough, they can overcome the sexism."
Chizui's story is an inspiration to young women who aspire to be head sushi chefs. Female sushi chefs are an anomaly among the 35,000 listed by the All Japan Sushi Association. Only one in five students at the Tokyo Sushi Academy are women. And many master chefs are hesitant to train female apprentices.
The number of female sushi chef students could increase over the next few years.
"Fewer young male youths are showing an interest in becoming a sushi chef these days, forcing more establishments to hire women instead," said sushi chef Yumi Chiba to The Japan Times. "I hope that an increasing number of women will be able to be involved in the world of sushi."
The obstacles for aspiring female chefs are established male chefs who still believe that women can't properly prepare sushi. Chef Kazuyoshi Ono said that women's menstrual cycles hurt their sense of taste. (Seriously?!) Other chefs claim that women's body temperature or use of cosmetics could ruin the process. (Huh?)