Five people paid $250 a plate for artist Mao Sugiyama's genitals. Unfortunately, the food and legal repercussions made the banquet less than a success.
“Please retweet. I am offering my male genitals (full penis, testes, scrotum) as a meal for 100,000 yen… I will prepare and cook as the buyer requests, at his chosen location.”
That was the tweet Tokyo illustrator Mao Sugiyama sent out in 2012 after he received elective genital-removal surgery (“gender nullification”). Sugiyama had the surgery on his 22nd birthday, then had his genitals frozen and doubled bagged.
Two months later, he held a banquet complete with musical entertainment, a panel, and lastly, the main course which was served with a button mushroom garnish.
Mao Sugiyama Prepares An Artistic Banquet
Sugiyama considered eating the genitals himself but decided to make, what he called, an artistic statement instead. A self-described asexual, Sugiyama believed he didn’t need them to accomplish his work.
After the amount of attention the announcement garnered, Sugiyama turned the event into a public banquet, calling it “Ham Cybele — Century Banquet.”
Cybele refers to the Anatolian mother goddess who embodies the bounty of the earth and, unlike the American word, ham in Japan refers more generally to processed meat. HC is also Sugiyama’s artist nickname. Meanwhile, century is a Japanese homophone for the word genitals.
Sugiyama said he’d gone on a one-month sex binge before the operation to make sure he wouldn’t regret it, but was tested after and was found free of any venereal diseases. Still, the guests had to sign a waiver stating he wasn’t responsible if they got sick off of his “meal.”
The Event And Its Guests
Around 70 people showed up for the banquet, held at an event space in the Suginami ward of Tokyo.
Sugiyama, wearing a chef’s outfit, seasoned and braised the genitals himself on a portable gas cartridge burner. Five diners paid $250 a plate for the “special” meal, while other attendees ate beef and crocodile meat.
The five people who shelled up the money included a curious couple, a male manga artist, a 22-year old woman, and an event planner. All were between the ages of 22 and 32.
Before dinner was served, the guests listened to a panel discussion and a piano recital.
Photos of the prepared meal showed a sliced penis, a sliced testicle, and scrotal skin with three millimeters of pubic hair. For garnish: parsley and button mushrooms.
Unfortunately for the diners, the meal was underwhelming, with some describing the penis as having a rubbery texture and bland taste.
When Managing Culinary Director of Serious Eats J. Kenji Lopez-Alt read about the less-than-satisfying entrée, he wrote to CalorieLab saying, “The chef didn’t cook it right. What a waste of a perfectly good penis! Penis is pretty tough and needs to be slow cooked, either sous-vide or in a braise.”
The Legal Ramifications
At the time, Mao Sugiyama made a joke that removing his genitals lowered the chances of him ever being charged with “indecent exposure.”
Unfortunately for Sugiyama, the banquet was considered just that.
Many concerned citizens complained to the Suginami police. “Many residents of Suginami and elsewhere have expressed a sense of discomfort and feeling of apprehension over this,” said the mayor. The Tokyo district public prosecutors’ office received criminal papers against Mao Sugiyama and three others involved with organizing the event.
Since cannibalism isn’t illegal in Japan, Sugiyama couldn’t be arrested for serving his genitals. However, an indecent exposure charge could result in two years of jail time and a fine up to 2.5 million yen, or $32,000 dollars.
Four suspects conspired to “openly display the severed male genitals to the assembled 71 guests,” said a spokeswoman for the Toyko Metropolitan Police Department.
Sugiyama said that the indecent exposure charge didn’t apply since everyone in attendance knew exactly what the event was about.
Sugiyama also made sure he didn’t violate any laws, including a ban on organ sales, processing of medical waste and food sanitation requirements. He maintained that the event was artistically motivated, designed to raise awareness on “sexual minorities, x-gender, asexual people.”
Media attention eventually dwindled and the charges were reportedly dropped in February 2013.
Next read about the artists who cannibalized themselves during a livestream. Then read about Issei Sagawa, another Japanese man very interested in cannibalism.