Is it Respecting Japanese Culture or Sexually Inappropriate Conduct: Texas Chief Under Scrutiny

The City of San Antonio is investigating the circumstances surrounding Fire Chief Charles Hood being photographed taking part in a Japanese tradition of eating sushi from the body of a partially nude model earlier this year. The tradition, known as Nyotaimori, dates back centuries to the Samurai period.

Photos of the chief at a birthday party prompted city officials to open an investigation. KSAT TV quoted Goro Pitchford, a longtime sushi chef and owner of Godai Sushi, as saying:

  • Nothing derogatory about it. It’s more of a celebration.
  • It’s very traditional for higher-ups, you know, for higher-ups in Japanese community back in the samurai days.
  • I have friends and colleagues. We were pretty upset that the city is going after him.
  • There’s a lot of other things that they should concentrate on besides this.
  • Do some research on it.
  • First, ask some people in the community that really know about this and ask them, ‘Is this good or is it bad?’

The incident occurred last January at a birthday party for a firefighter who turned 50. The San Antonio Express News quoted Chief Hood as saying:

  • [It was] more or less a family event.
  • You walk in the front door and there’s a sushi lady there that I guess is a business, so I stopped and posed and take a picture. That’s it.
  • It would be like me taking a picture with a flamenco dancer in Vegas or a Spurs dancer at Top Golf where the Spurs dancers happen to be there.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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