Ehomaki is a thick sushi roll filled with seven delicious ingredients and eaten on Setsubun (February 3rd) every year to bring good luck! Celebrate this unique Japanese holiday with delicious homemade ehomaki!
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What is Ehomaki?
Ehomaki is a type of makizushi (sushi roll) eaten on the Japanese holiday "Setsubun" held on February 3rd.
The word "eho" (恵方) means "lucky direction" and "maki" (巻き) means roll. The name "ehomaki" supposedly came from Hiroshima Prefecture.
When eating ehomaki, the custom is to face the direction that will bring good fortune and eat one whole ehomaki silently while making a wish.
It is important not to cut the ehomaki as eating it whole is believed to bring good luck for the rest of the year.
The history of Ehomaki
The tradition of ehomaki is said to have originated from Osaka at some point between the Edo (1603-1867) and Meiji (1868-1912) periods. Ehomaki were eaten particularly by merchants to celebrate prosperous business and the beginning of the lunar new year.
In those days, ehomaki was often referred to as "futomakizushi" (thick sushi roll) or "marukaburi-zushi" (in-one-go sushi roll), and made seven ingredients. Different ingredients have different meanings and are supposed to represent "seven blessings".
However, this custom of using seven ingredients is not a strict rule and is unique to a few regions rather than practiced nationwide.
In 1989, convenience store 7-Eleven started selling futomakizushi especially for Setsubun. Since then, the popularity of ehomaki quickly spread across Japan and supermarket and deparments also began to sell ehomaki.
Just like chocolate on Valentine's day or the Japanese custom of eating KFC on Christmas day, the modern popularity of ehomaki is a byproduct of good marketing by companies!
Popular fillings used in ehomaki
Ehomaki doesn't have a rule for which fillings you must use, so you can choose 7 of your favourite ingredients!
- Salmon (sushi grade)
- Tuna (sushi grade)
- Imitation crab meat (crab sticks)
- Ikura (salmon roe)
- Ebi (shrimp)
- Unagi (eel)
- Tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette)
- Kampyo (cooked and flavoured gourd strips)
- Shiso/Ooba (perilla leaves)
- Sakura dembu (a type of flaked fish)
And if you want to try making ehomaki with more unusual fillings, why not try some of these:
- Teriyaki chicken
- Teriyaki salmon
- Smoked salmon
- Tinned tuna/salmon
- Thinly sliced beef/pork (cooked and seasoned)
- Boiled shiitake mushrooms
The possibilities are endless! Let us know what 7 ingredients you used in the comments below!
General rules for eating ehomaki
There are a few rules to follow when eating ehomaki on Sestubun:
- Prepare enough ehomaki for each family member.
- Confirm this year's lucky direction (more info below).
- Facing the lucky direction, eat the ehomaki in silence while thinking about your wish.
- Eat the ehomaki whole without cutting it into pieces.
I know it's quite a superstitious idea, but it is believed that if you follow these rules, your wish will come true!
There are four possible lucky directions, "east-northeast", "west-southwest", "south-southeast", and "north-northwest".
You might be wondering why the direction changes each year and how it's decided.
Well, it's believed that the direction depends on the position of "Toshitokujin" (歳徳神) or "The God of the New Year".
Toshitokujin's position is decided by the Chinese counting system "10 heavenly stems and 12 earthly branches" which are the most important counting systems in the Chinese (lunar) calendar. (This system also decides the Chinese zodiac, ying/yang, element etc for each year.)
Fortunately you don't need to memorise the heavenly stems and earthly branches, there is also a way to figure out which direction is lucky using the Gregorian Calendar!
|Years ending with||Lucky Direction|
|0 or 5||West - Southwest|
|1, 3, 6 or 8||South - Southeast|
|2 or 7||North - Northwest|
|4 or 9||East - Northeast|
So using the chart above, you can see that the lucky direction for Setsubun in 2022 is north-northwest!
Why in silence?
People believe that if you speak while eating ehomaki, the luck will run away from you. So make sure to eat ehomaki in silence while thinking about your wish!
Why one bite?
The reason we eat the whole roll in one go is because people believe that you will receive happiness and good fortune for the whole year.
Don't miss out on a years worth of luck by cutting your ehomaki or stopping in the middle of the meal, eat it whole to get the best luck all year round!
Setsubun (節分) is an annual Japanese holiday that falls on the last day of winter according to the old Japanese calendar. This generally falls on February 3rd.
The word "Setsubun" means the division of the seasons and while it doesn't mark the beginning of the new year, the start of spring is considered to be a time of renewal. Rituals and traditions are held to drive away bad fortune for the coming year.
Bean throwing (mamemaki)
When translating "Setsubun" into English, it's often called the "Bean-Throwing Festival".
The name comes from the tradition of throwing roasted soybeans either around your front-door, or at an unlucky family member wearing a demon mask to drive away the evil spirits.
Not only is this done at home, but also at local shrines or temples. At some events, packets of roasted soybeans or even sweets or prizes are thrown into the crowd. It's great fun for kids!
Bring the good luck in
Setsubun is a time for driving out the bad luck and bringing in the good.
In addition to eating ehomaki, it is lucky to eat 1 roasted soybean for each year of your life, plus one more for the year ahead.
Ehomaki is a thick sushi roll containing 7 ingredients. It's eaten on February 3rd or the day before the first day of spring on the Lunar calendar. This day is known as "Setsubun".
In a broad sense, yes, they are essentially the same thing. Ehomaki simply refers to the "futomaki" eaten on Setsubun. However in some regions, ehomaki should have 7 ingredients whereas futomaki generally has 4 or more fillings.
It's not confirmed but apparently ehomaki orginated from Osaka.
Ehomaki should be eaten whole, in silence and facing the lucky direction (eho) of the year.
Ehomaki shouldn't be cut, so the length is the same as a sheet of nori. (Approx 20cm or 8")