At just 18, aspiring artist Yujia Hu had to leave school. “As the eldest of the brothers I had to manage the family business.” That was about 10 years ago, when his family decided to open a Japanese takeaway in Milan. So, rather than give up on his dream, Yuija decided to make art you can eat. Being a huge fan of the NBA, he started to create sushi replicas of the most popular sneakers the sport has ever seen… and, thus, Shoeshi was born.
Yuija grew up in China while his parents were working in Italy. At age eight, he moved to start a new life with his parents. “Growing up in a traditional Chinese family, I’ve never been ‘free’ to do what normal kids do at their age. I had to help my parents work, I didn’t finish high school. I regret not finishing because I only had one year left, and I liked the school I attended.”
About a year ago, Yuija started experimenting with the ingredients he cooks with on a daily basis - rice, nori and raw fish. He began by creating Onigiris (a type of rice ball) that resembled celebrities - NBA players, actors and rappers.
“Maybe that’s why I started combining my passion for arts and my sushi chef skills. I needed a way to express what I have in my mind, and this had to be my own way.”
Sushi was the natural choice in medium for his art, given the fact he worked in his parents restaurant, he was already very familiar with the way sushi can be crafted in different, aesthetically pleasing ways.
“I love my job, I’ve been making sushi for years already, and I had to express creativity somehow. So mixing my two passions together, made me create this kind of art.”
Yuija has gained a lot of exposure from his miniature creations. With 18.7K followers on Instagram, his art is growing steadily in popularity. Each piece takes about “15 - 20 minutes, depending on how detailed it is,” so Yuija is able to create multiple pieces a day.
His next collection will focus on rappers, some of whom are fans of Yuija’s art: “Some of them have already complimented my work, publishing my creations on their social media. I’m really happy about it!”
So with rappers already giving him a shout out, what could be next for the social media sushi sensation?
“I’m really hoping some brand will ask me for a collaboration. It would be an honor for me.” Given the viral success of Yuija’s Shoeshi, if a brand doesn’t come calling soon, I’ll eat my hat… or maybe my shoes.