Matsumotos Corner Vol.1

How Japanese gain good health and luck, the Ehomaki sushi roll 

Every February 3rd (or 4th some years) ‘Setsubun’ is celebrated the day before the spring season begins in Japan*. A fun tradition practiced on this occasion is to make wishes while eating a special rolled sushi and face that year’s lucky direction. Of  tantamount importance, the special rolled sushi, named ‘ehomaki,’ must be uncut and eaten in silence. Historic evidence points to Osaka for the origins of this custom. The practice somehow spread throughout Japan during the 21st century. It has become such a common practice, that on this day, you can find ehomaki at convenience stores and supermarkets.
Ehomaki basically looks the same as ordinary sushi rolls, except that it must not be cut. However, this particular roll ideally contains 7 kinds of ingredients, a formula derived from Shichifukujin – Seven Gods of Fortune in Japanese mythology. Popular ingredients include fried eggs, tuna, salmon, cucumber, kanpyo (dried fruit of a plant), shiitake mushrooms, kamaboko (steamed fish paste), salmon roe, and shrimp. Make it a point to be in Japan during this festivity for a fantastic opportunity to experience Setsubun and try ehomaki for yourself. Ask a friendly store clerk nicely and they may school you on that year’s direction of good luck and how to eat.
After writing this, I went to supermarkets to buy sushi rolls for the purpose of taking photos for this article. However, I realized that, except for the Setsubun period, they sell cut sushi rolls only. So my best option was to make it myself. I was a bit shocked to be reminded that it has been a long time since I played assistant to my mother as a child. Success, I made my own roll for the first time in 50 years. It was satisfyingly delicious!

※It’s called spring.but be prepared because actually the Setsubun period is often the coldest time in Japan!


Stayed in Malaysia twice, in 1995-98 and 2015-17. As a representative of JICA* Malaysia, I had various experiences there. After retiring from JICA, I’m looking for ways to stay connected with my favorite Malaysia!
*Japan International Cooperation Agency

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