December 28, 2015 02:44 PM

Koji Sasahara/AP

The powerhouse sushi culture in Japan has gotten a major shake-up — in a colorful package.

Nadeshiko Sushi, the country’s first completely female-staffed sushi restaurant, has sought to defy the serious, male-dominated industry norms not only by employing exclusively women but also by providing service with a smile and donning kimonos adorned with pink blossoms.

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“It’s all about having the confidence,” manager Yuki Chizui told 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.”

Indeed, female sushi chefs in Japan have seen their fair share of gender-based detractors. Kazuyoshi Ono, the son of Jiro Ono of the hit documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, told the Wall Street Journal in 2011 that “because of the menstrual cycle, women have an imbalance in their taste, and that’s why women can’t be sushi chefs.”

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But Chizui doesn’t let the naysayers affect the positive environment they’ve created. “They show up from time to time, but I just regard them as fools,” she said.

“We do a good job here, but there are younger staff who still have a lot to learn. Every sushi restaurant has its own style and flavor, depending on how they cook and prepare the rice, which fish they select, and so on. And like everyone else, we have our own style.”

Shay Spence, @chezspence

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