JAPANーAccording to ロケットニュース24 this is a custom that everyone knows. Maybe round up a hundred people and one of them might be unfamiliar. Off the island, however, it may just be the other way around… fortuitous sushi burrito, you say? Let us investigate.
Setsubun was originally a day which marked the changing of the seasons in Japan. It is also known as “bean throwing festival” during which dried soybeans are scattered in and outside the house in an effort to ward off oni. A popular food for the occasion of seasonal change is the ehou-maki. This is a thick sushi roll prepared as a single, uncut cylinder. These days, Setsubun primarily marks the beginning of spring in February, but it seems that ehou-maki is still also eaten in May, August, and November.
南南東やや南 “South-southeast and a Little More South”
The name ehouー“e” (恵 “enlightenment”) + “hou” (方 ”direction”)ーrepresents the idea that if one points their sushi roll in the direction of the goddess of lucky fortunes for that particular year (aka a toshigami), awesome things will happen to you. Therefore: “Lucky Direction Roll.” This year’s ehou theme and direction is “south-southeast and a little more south” (南南東やや南).
Although most origin theories agree this ehou lucky sushi roll was born in Osaka, the verdict is still out on exactly when and why. Was it born of the superstitious pickle rolls of the Taishō era red-light districts? The city fisherman’s guild spread a rumor in the thirties that eating an uncut roll in silence to solicit a year of good luck had long been a popular practice in the Geisha houses. But it seems that a nori marketing campaign in the 1970s spread flyers claiming the tradition was a family affair, which by ‘77 had ballooned into nori-matsuri street festivalーcomplete with sushi-roll eating contests. By the booming 1980s, the fortuitous ehou had become a fad so large that Family Mart (followed soon after by 7/11 and grocery stores alike) hopped in the game and started taking pre-orders for Setsubun.
So now we’ll never know just what sort of marketing genius made off with buckets of yen for thinking up magic, oni-purging, sushi burritos.
So… what? I eat futo-maki like, all the time. What makes ehou-maki so special?
- First of all, the roll must be eaten in total silence, all in one go. The luck will escape if from your mouth if you speak or from your eyes if you open them prior to having eaten the entire thing. Best be careful about smiling too, just in case.
- Cut the fat roll with a knife and your relationships are doomedーyou can wave goodbye to good luck for the year.
- It is customary to use seven types of seafood in the ehou-maki, each of which represents one of the seven gods of fortune. (I think the most fish I’ve eaten stuffed in a roll tops out at three)
- It is also said that the long roll guards against the oni’s iron club.
- It’s basically the Japanese version of a burrito.
私の経験では In My Experience
I pre-ordered a fancy ehou for my first Setsubunーikura, anago, maguro, buri, ebi, kazu-no-ko, fresh kani + bonus tamago and kyuri (or rather: cured salmon roe, conger eel, bluefin tuna, yellowtail tuna, shrimp, herring roe, crab + egg and cucumberーwhoa.)
The moment I picked this behemoth up from the store, I knew I’d tasked myself with the impossible. How could I ever finish this gargantuan seafood burrito in one go?! Had I inadvertently damned myself to ill-wishing demons in a year I need super-loads of extra luck?
The answer was, sadly, yes.
I finished only half before I could stuff no more.
Wish me luck.
© Devon Lois 2018