Sushi chef slams city leaders for criticizing SAFD chief who took part in Japanese tradition

Chief Hood seen in photo with nyotaimori model under investigation

SAN ANTONIO – A longtime local sushi chef says city leaders should’ve done their homework before criticizing the San Antonio fire chief for appearing in a photo depicting a Japanese tradition that dates back centuries.

San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood was seen posing with a partially nude model who was covered in sushi, a tradition known as nyotaimori, which is said to be reserved for grand celebrations.

“Nothing derogatory about it,” said longtime local sushi chef Goro Pitchford. “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.”

Pitchford has owned Godai Sushi on West Avenue for 15 years, and said he has experience catering nyotaimori. He said he was appalled to hear city leaders like manager Erik Walsh and Mayor Ron Nirenberg criticize Chief Hood for taking part in the Japanese practice.

“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,” Pitchford said.

Walsh called the photo a “serious issue” that is now under review. Mayor Nirenberg said Chief Hood’s actions counter what’s expected. The city has now opened an investigation into the matter with disciplinary action pending.

SAFD Chief Charles Hood poses for a photo while eating sushi off a nude woman's body during a private party in January 2020. (.)

After our story aired Friday, some viewers commented that they did find offense in Hood’s actions; however, the vast majority share similar sentiments as Pitchford.

“Unless something derogatory did happen. You know, like he’s actually jumping on top of her or somebody jumping on, that’s different. But, he was there celebrating,” Pitchford said.

Pitchford said he had some advice to offer Walsh and Nirenberg.

“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?’” Pitchford said

KSAT did receive a phone call from a viewer who says she is Japanese and was offended by the photo. She also claims to never have heard of the tradition.

We reached out to Mayor Nirenberg’s office Saturday to find out if city leaders are aware of the tradition, and to find out how much this investigation is going to cost taxpayers, but have not yet heard back.

RELATED: City attorney: Photo of SAFD chief eating sushi off nude woman is a ‘serious issue’ under review

About the Authors

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.

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