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Setsubun 2023: Golden Rice Rolls and Seven Ingredients to Ring In Good Luck

Ehomaki: Find out some of the ways in which Japanese celebrate Setsbun, the solar calendar date which marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. 



Could it be that this year, as a Setsubun treat, some Japanese people bought a gold leaf-covered rice roll worth over $100 USD?

One custom which has exploded in the last 20 years at the time of Setsubun is ehomaki. This can be roughly translated as a "lucky direction roll", and indicates a rice roll popular around this time of year. 

Traditionally, the roll is about 20 centimeters long and has seven ingredients in its filling. There is one ingredient for each of the Seven Lucky Gods in Japanese mythology. 

These days, however, variations abound, with different styles, cuisine, and even 18 ingredients in one roll. 

On February 3 at the Isetan Department Store in Tokyo's Shinjuku area ー a flagship of the major Mitsukoshi-Isetan department store group ー JAPAN Forward visited the fresh food aisle in the basement to find out what innovative ehomaki there were for 2023. 

Unusual ones included a glittering rice roll covered by an outer layer in  gold leaf (with a price tag of over $100 USD). At the same time, there were other Ehomaki, including some with five varieties of fish. 

Tapping into the tradition of eating the rice roll while facing the right direction (southeast in the case of 2023) some boxes had a handy compass to help consumers achieve their task. 


"Eating ehomaki is just one of the traditions that Japanese have during Setsubun. It's on top of mame maki to chase away the Oni," explained Hironori Kitagawa, general manager of Toshin Sea Foods Co, Ltd who was working in the fresh food section in Isetan on the day. 

One good example was a roll with an outer layer made of an egg omelet, instead of the traditional seaweed, "because the egg batter is sweet, and therefore more palatable for children," explained Kitagawa. 

"What we do is that we try to make our ehomaki a little more sumptuous, so that everyone in the family can enjoy a pleasant meal," the Toshin Sea Foods Co manager concluded.  

Walking around the food floors of Japanese department stores, we could find many varieties of the fat rice rolls. Anyone ready to try one from Indian cuisine, Japanese steak, or popular variations such as prawn-mayonnaise? 

Next year, why not try some ehomaki for Setsbun!


Author: Arielle Busetto

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