Friday, February 03, 2006


Today is Setsubun. It is a yearly ritual which is held every February 3rd, the day before the first day of Spring for the Japanese Lunar calendar.

For this ritual, people shout "oni wa soto" (the devil/bad luck out) three times while throwing roasted soy beans out of the doorways of the house each time, then throwing the beans three times inside while saying "fuku wa uchi"(the good fortune/happiness in). You must then go throughout the house doing this...but don't think you can take out your vacuum to clean up everything right away...according to the ritual, you must allow the good spirits to come and eat the beans (so you can clean them up the day after...) also to bring luck to yourself you are supposed to eat the amount according to your age plus one...well, let's say that you are 67(just picked this number out of the air...), you are allowed to eat 7 beans + 6 (for each decade) +1 (whew!....although...if you REALLY want to eat 67, "doozo" (please do)! We're not going to throw the beans around, just eat the amount of our age, so I bought us chocolate covered soy beans, helps the "medicine" go down, don't you think??

Another thing you are supposed to do during Setsubun is eat an un-cut "futomaki" (fat) sushi roll. This tradition started in Osaka and is slowly spreading throughout Japan. (UPDATE: this "futomaki" is called "ehomaki")

Basically, your "futomaki" should have some cucumber to represent the green devil, pickled ginger and carrots to represent the red devil. By putting these items into your sushi, you are then "eating the devils"--getting rid of the bad luck....According to a website that I surfed onto, you are supposed to (mugon) "silently" eat an un-cut "futomaki" sushi roll while concentrating on a wish and face the direction of the good luck gods. The good luck direction (e-ho) changes from year to year. For 2006, the direction is "nan-nan-to"= south-south-east. The reason for eating "futomaki" is because it is thought that luck is "rolled" into the sushi. And the reason for eating it un-cut is because if you slice it, you will "cut" your ties ("en o kiru") with family. (Be sure to face the correct direction, if you face the wrong direction you will be facing the devil/bad luck.)

From Orange Page's #8 "Wa, Yo, Chu-Rice Dishes"
How to make "futomaki" (rolled sushi): makes 3 rolls
3-cups (600cc) cooked rice
Nori (yakinori (toasted laver--seaweed sheet))
Dried Shiitake mushrooms - 6
Kanpyo (dried gourd strips) - 10g or 200cm
Eggs - 3
Mitsuba (wild chervil)-3 bunches (100g)-wilted in hot water

For shiitake & kampyo:
Rinse kampyo and soak in warm water to reconstitute. Then rub it with some salt to soften it. Rinse the kampyo again.
Soak the shiitake in warm water to reconstitute it.

Place reconstituted kampyo in a pot and cook for 10 minutes. Drain.
In a pot add the shiitake and kampyo plus
1.5 cups dashi (seaweed stock or water if stock not available)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cooking sake (rice wine)
2 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
3 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce, if on hand--light soy sauce (usukuchi shoyu))
simmer for 10 to 15 more minutes. Use a wooden drop lid(otoshibuta) while simmering (foil or parchment paper with a hole in the middle can be used if you don't have a drop lid). At the end of the 10 to 15 minutes, most of the stock should be reduced. Slice the shiitake thinly and kampyo to about 8mm or into 3rds.

Prepare the egg: in a bowl, break in the 3 eggs,
Add 1.5 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon cooking sake (rice wine)
couple of drops of shoyu
Scramble all the ingredients

Put a Tablespoon of oil into a pan and heat. Pour egg mixture in and as it cooks slowly fold so that you end up with a block form. Slice lenghthwise into 3rds.

For the rice:
Heat 2/3 cup (80cc) vinegar, add 3 to 4 Tablespoons of sugar (to taste)and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir until sugar is melted.

Put the cooked rice into a big flat bowl (if you have a bamboo oke (looks like a bamboo tub)use this to cool and season your rice) and slowly pour the seasoning while mixing (but not smashing) the rice. Use a paper fan to cool the rice while mixing.

Then put your dry makisu (bamboo rolling mat) onto a flat, dry surface. If your makisu is wet, your nori will stick and you'll have a big mess...Have all of your ingredients (I put sliced carrots, cucumber, pickled ginger, the marinated shiitake and kampyo, seasoned egg into our futomaki) nearby to assemble your sushi...Get ready to roll!

Lay your nori down onto the makisu, and put a thin, even layer of rice on 3/4 of the nori. Next line up a third of all your "gu" (condiments), don't pile it up or else you'll have a hard time rolling.

Then while holding down your "gu", roll it tightly without squeezing--like you roll a jelly roll cake...if you put an even amount of rice an "gu" everything should come out in the middle.

If you can't get a lot of these ingredients where you are, just put the foods you like into it. This dish is great for parties and a great finger food.
Don't worry if things are sticking out from the ends because when you cut to serve (don't cut during Setsubun), you'll cut the ends off and can sample all the ends!!



Anonymous said...

Hi Kat,

What a wonderful post! You described such an interesting ritual ... and I think I did my part (even though I wasn't aware of the ritual) in having some sushi today for lunch!

The recipe looks tremendous as well. And I love the photos!

It's always so interesting to learn about other traditions and customs. Once again great post!

K and S said...

Hi Ivonne,

There were some things I had to research because even I didn't know.

Glad you enjoyed it.

Kat & Satoshi

Anonymous said...

Hi Kat,

Such a source of info. Lovely post. I think rituals are great! Did you do the "bean" scattering or did you eat chocolate covered soy beans? ;-)

K and S said...

Hi Bea,

Thank you for your nice comments.

We ate the chocolate covered beans instead of scattering them.

Enjoy your weekend.

Kat & Satoshi

bourgogne said...

those maki are really futoi! :D setsubun vaguely sounds familiar to me, so i think my mum probably mentioned it at some point. of course it went straight out the other ear! i'll ask her about it again today (she is originally from takarazuka not far from osaka) thanks for that info. btw, do you ever say, "doozo bozo" ?? haha i used to say that to my family which would result in rolled eyes.

K and S said...

Hi Bourgogne,

Your Mom is from Takarazuka? We're just 20 minutes by train from there!! At a station called "Ishibashi". What a small world!
No, I don't say "doozo bozo" out loud...although I probably think it sometimes...hee hee. :)

Thanks for stopping by.

Kat & Satoshi

Rowena said...

Kat, what a great post! I always love it when you tell us about traditions and cultural things pertinent to Japan. As I was reading the post, I was visually imagining it in my head. Again, wonderful post. Keep it up!! ;-)

K and S said...

Hi Rowena,

Thank you for the nice compliment.

Take care.

Kat & Satoshi