Hapa’s Haley Dorfman engages in an homage to the ancient Japanese art of Nyotaimori.
Hapa's Haley Dorfman engages in an homage to the ancient Japanese art of Nyotaimori. (Courtesy photo)

University of Colorado senior Haley Dorfman has a particularly interesting part-time job.

As a "naked sushi" model for Hapa on the Hill, the 22-year-old from Atlanta, Ga., lies on her back perfectly still for up to four hours, while covered in sushi.

Hapa, which has four restaurants in the Boulder/Denver area, has been in operation for 11 years.

Hapa owner Mark Van Grack began integrating his "naked sushi" event into the restaurant's overall concept a year ago.

"We do it as an art piece," said Van Grack, who has been to Japan a number of times and still imports various fish from the country. "There's no nudity and no reason for anyone to object. The model is paid, and she knows what she's doing."

By incorporating the "naked sushi" event to Hapa, Van Grack is maintaining his overall raison d'etre that originally impelled him to bring together Western and Japanese culture to his restaurant. "Hapa" stems from a Japanese word meaning "the blending of cultures."

If you go

What: "Naked Sushi" at Hapa

Where: Hapa on the Hill, 1220 Pennsylvania Ave., Boulder

When: Tonight and every second Thursday of the month, 9 p.m. to midnight

More info: Regular Thursday specials still apply; hapasushi.com

According to Van Grack, the ancient prandial art of Nyotaimori (Yo-too-more-ee) has been practiced in Japan for centuries and still is an active part of the country's cuisine culture, particularly in Geisha houses.

Nyotaimori can be expensive and involves eating sushi or sashimi off of a naked woman -- or man, in the case of Nantaimori -- as a human platter. This rare delicacy has recently been popularized in Western culture through films such as "Rising Sun," "Bruno" and the "Sex and the City" movie.

At Hapa on the Hill, there is no actual eating off of the model.

"She is naked," says Van Grack. "But we do cover the model's privates with banana leaves and garnish, along with the sushi."

Van Grack simply feels that "naked sushi" should be more of an homage to the real deal, and they wish to leave it at that.

"To be honest with you," said Van Grack, " I wouldn't want to eat sushi off of a naked body."

What we end up with is a "flavor" of Japanese culture mixed into this monthly "naked sushi" event at Hapa.

Models, such as Dorfman, are placed on a heated pad for comfort and lie there festooned by fish.

Because she is completely covered, there is no risk of Dorfman or any other model violating Boulder's public nudity codes.

"The whole event is in really good taste and very artfully done," said Dorfman, whose only real complaint about her "naked sushi" modeling is the occasional boredom of lying in one place for so long. She said she overcomes the disadvantage by meditating or eavesdropping -- or by talking with Hapa patrons.

She said she wishes more people would speak with her. One woman, despite being offended by Dorfman's modeling, was open to a long discussion on the subject, all the while Dorfman lying nearly naked before her, she said.

Dorfman -- who has created her own "sexology" major at CU and wishes to pursue sexual research as a career -- said she has always been comfortable with her body and feels that the human form in general should not be hidden from society.

"The body is a beautiful thing," says Dorfman, who refers to herself as a third-wave feminist. "Any expression of sexuality is great. A more 'sex positive,' openly sexual society would be what I would aim for."