Is Ehomaki good for the environment?

March 24, 2016 Juju Kurihara Cooking, Culture, Foods, History, Vocabulary Tags: , , , 2 Comments

Setsubun (節分) is one of the seasonal events in Japan, which is known as throwing soybeans saying, “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! (鬼は外! 福は内!)”. 




I always loved eating those tasteless roast soybeans. You can only eat the same amount as your age. How I wanted to be older! Just to eat more beans although I could eat as many as I wanted in the next day.


I knew about Ehomaki (恵方巻き) because I had a classmate in the secondary school, whose family originally came from Osaka. But back then it wasn´t common at all in the eastern part of Japan. 


Ehomaki originally started among merchants in Osaka, between the end of Edo period (江戸時代 1603-1867) and the beginning of Meiji period (明治時代 1868-1912) to wish for success in business, health and the well-being of the families. However this custom didn´t continue so long. Then Osaka Sushi Union brought this back in 1932 in order to increase the sales of sushi in February, which was a quiet month. But still, the custom was kept only in Osaka.


And even the Sushi Union brought up this custom, many people in Osaka didn´t know about this. Ehomaki seemed to be held as a “play” only in the red-light district. The Sushi Union just used this to promote maki-zushi. 


After the WWII, Ehomaki was stopped but in the 1977, this time a nori (seaweeds) Union in Osaka started. They promoted not only in Osaka but from Kyushu area to Niigata prefecture.   The last thing was holding an event by the Osaka Nori Union by Dotonbori, where is one of the main touristic spots. As they planned, a food company saw this event and a little help of Seven Eleven, Ehomaki became a national event in Japan.

It´s been a while since Ehomaki became an annual event but still, it hasn´t been completely accepted, at least where I lived (Tokyo area). But for many housewives it was very convenient because they don´t need to think about what to cook for the dinner. They don´t probably follow the rule (ehomaki has certain rules when you eat), but they still have some big rolls to eat. However, this year, I´ve seen so many posts in the social medias where people were almost angry about Ehomaki. 


Problem started in konbini, I understand that it´s a special maki but many people complained the price of one konbini maki costed as high as 1,000 yen or 2,000 yen while usual futomaki cost 135 yen (1 to 1 euro 50 cents).  

[caption id="attachment_8641" align="aligncenter" width="640"]ローソンの手巻き寿司まぐろたたき(キハダマグロ使用)開封前

Even worth thing happened. Since there were so many Ehomaki sold, many konbini and take away sushi shops had a massive amount of leftovers. As well as the christmas cake, no one buys ehomaki day after. Well, the shops can´t sell sushi day after anyway. What did they do? They had thrown them away, bags of sushi rolls… 


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waste food
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food waste 2

While in many countries people are trying to stop wasting the food, this is very shameful. Especially after reading articles about poverty in Japan that 1 in 6 Japanese children are so poor that they are only meal is the school lunch.  


One konbini had a 260,000 yen (about 2,074 euro) of loss from Ehomaki this day. Many konbini workers commented that they had received a late night massage from the shop manager and forced to buy the left over sushi rolls in order to avoid the loss. Some shops obliged to buy at least 8 rolls, some 20 rolls…  


This news has really shocked decent Japanese people. I personally think it would have been better if Ehomaki was kept as a local tradition. It would have made this more unique and less waste of food at the same time.  




Ehomaki is becoming a problem :

Wast food Ehomaki :

food waste :

Backstage of the big annual event :

Origin of Eshomaki :



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  1. Jose 7 years Reply

    Japanese food is always OIshiii!

  2. James 7 years Reply

    I remember seeing plenty of homeless people on my last visit to Japan in October 2014 and I’m pretty sure they would not have said no to a roll or two. This is what happens when business tries to force culture onto the public unnecessarily.

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