Eat sushi rolls toward North by Northwest

Did you know that in some parts of the world, facing a specific cardinal direction and eating a whole sushi roll in silence is considered tradition, and not alarmingly bizarre behavior? It’s what’s customary in Japan on the day of Setsubun (February 3), and the rolls that are prepared for this occasion are called Ehoumaki.

A day to herald the coming of Spring

Setsubun, in Japanese, is a day marking the start of a new season. In the old Japanese calendar, the beginning of the new year used to be known as Risshun or the arrival of Spring. Even among the four Setsubun days throughout the year, Risshun and the day preceding it had a special place in people’s hearts. Risshun has been celebrated from centuries ago with rituals such as bean throwing, and more recently, eating Ehoumaki sushi rolls.

Lucky Ehoumaki Sushi Rolls

We regard red and yellow as lucky colours (in this sushi roll, it's salmon and corn). I combined seven ingredients of lucky-coloured fillings!

There isn’t much that’s fixed in terms of the fillings, but some versions go by putting in 7 varieties, after the seven gods of fortune from Japanese folklore. In Japan, Ehoumaki are often prepared at home, but they’re also available in convenience stores and sushi shops.

This year, eat your Ehoumaki facing North by Northwest

To help you bring in good luck on this special day, we’ve broken down the rules that people generally follow when enjoying Ehoumaki.

  1. Prepare one Ehoumaki per person
    Ehoumaki, which are rolls that are thought to bring in happiness, are served without being sliced into separate pieces (to deliver the happiness whole).
  1. Face the designated cardinal direction, holding your Ehoumaki ready
    “Ehou” is the specially designated direction that shifts each year. It’s the direction you should be facing while eating your Ehoumaki.
  1. Eat your Ehoumaki in silence
    Ehoumaki are supposed to be eaten in silence until you’re finished. Stopping to talk while you’re in the middle of one is said to be interfere with the good luck.

The picture of an entire family facing a certain corner of their dining room while eating whole sushi rolls in silence is definitely an amusing one. Even if you’re a bit skeptical of the powers of a sushi roll, Ehoumaki eating on Setsubun can be a fun (if not funny) family activity. Why not welcome in the start of Spring with a wish, a delicious roll, and a smile on your face? (TEXT:Akiko Takyu)