JTCO strives for inheritance, creation and development of Japanese traditional culture.

JTCOJapanese Traditional Culture Promotion&Development Organization
日本語 | English
Newsletter Back Number

Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on February 26, 2020
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 111] February 26, 2020

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 111]
February 25, 2020
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal food:
Rolling in luck : Ehomaki (Lucky direction roll)

:: 1. Seasonal food

On Febraury 3rd, the day before Lichun (the beginning of spring),
Japanese people have a tradition called "Mamemaki" to expel evil spirits
as part of the Setsubun festival. In the practice, people shout "Oni
wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! (Demons out! Luck in!)" while throwing dried
soya beans towards a person who wears a demon mask. And also they eat
the same number of his/her age (or one extra) of the soya beans. Eating
Ehomaki ("Lucky direction roll") is also a very common custom to bring
in good luck among households or public events on the Setsubun event.

Ehomaki is the custom of eating Futomaki (Thick sushi roll) during
facing the direction that is considered to be an auspicious direction
for the current year. It is believed that one of gods of Yin and Yang,
called "Toshitokujin", sits in this direction. Since the god controls
the year's luck, eating the sushi while facing the same direction is
believed to make the year better with luck. In the custom, people need
to be in silence and make a wish while they eat. It is said that the
wish will come true if he/she can finish whole sushi roll without
speaking. The sushi roll is also known as "Maru kaburi (or Maru kajiri)
sushi" which means eating whole sushi as well.

Eating a long sushi roll without cutting contains the meaning of
"Something long has good luck" and also "Not cutting good bonds or
relations". In the sushi roll, seven different ingredients are rolled
such as Sakura denbu (pink fish floss) and eel which represent people's
wish for their business success and good health. People metaphorically
wish for this sushi to roll those fortunes into it.

Although there are various theories as to the origin of "Ehomaki", one
of them says that the custom started among merchants in Osaka prefecture
in the late Edo era in 17c. They wished for their business success, good
health and safety of the family. In 1977, the Osaka seaweed wholesaler
cooperative society held a seaweed festival and in the event, there was
a fast eating competition eating the sushi roll inspired by the
tradition of the Setsubun. It was featured on mass media and it then
became a regular custom in the Kansai region. The festival was advertised
in many big cities all over in Japan and as a result the custom spread
across the country.

The name of "Ehomaki" is known widely everywhere in Japan today. However,
it was only in recent years that people recognised the name because it
used to be called "Marukaburi zushi (sushi with one bite)" or "Kai un
maki zushi (luck bringing sushi roll)". The reason why "Ehomaki" started
to be used is that some convenience stores in Hiroshima prefecture sold
the sushi roll with a selling gimmick in 1989. They used the good luck
custom from the Setsubun tradition and used the name "Ehomaki". The
practice of eating thick sushi roll originated in Osaka prefecture and
it had already taken place in other areas in the Kansai region but it
then rapidly spread out nationwide because of the auspicious name "Ehomaki".

Apparently, not only people in the old days ate Ehomaki toward the Eho
direction of the year, but also they used to choose a shrine in the Eho
direction to be the first shrine to visit in the year. And more, when
they were doing everything for the first time in the year, they faced
the Eho direction. This year's Eho direction is West-southwest so many
people in Japan ate Ehomaki while facing this direction on the day of
Setsubun. Isn't it an interesting custom that Japanese people have an
auspicious direction which changes every single year?

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

Copyright by Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion and
Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

To subscribe/unsubscribe to our Newsletter, or to change your
registered email address, please visit:

JTCO Newsletter "Delivery of Seasonal Tradition"Experience Japan with you tour guide!Find us@Facebook