The Rotary Peace Fellow program at ICU spoils us in many ways, one of those being extra and special events such as shows, concerts, cooking classes and cultural lectures. Today they hosted a "Eho-maki" class to celebrate the Setsubun holiday. Here is what our translated handout said about the holiday:
Eho-Maki are thick sushi rolls which is believed to bring good fortune if eaten while facing the year's 'Eho' (good luck direction). This year the correct direction to face is southeast. Eho-maki usually have seven ingredients such as cucumber, sweet omelet, shiitake mushrooms and eel after the Seven Deities of Good Luck. On average, the rolls are about 8-10 cm long. While you eat Eho-maki, you must be silent and think about the wishes you hope to achieve in the coming year.
Eho-maki are also called 'Maru-kaburi-sushi' (swallowing sushi) because of the traditional way to eat it: make a wish, close your eyes and eat the roll uncut, all while facing the Eho. The eating of Eho-maki without cutting reflects the idea of forming good relationships.
Some people believe that the origin of Eho-maki is a custom followed at the end of the Edo Period
(1860s) in Osaka, of wishing good fortune for fishermen. It is also believed figuratively that Eho-maki resemble a demon's metal rod, and that demons can be stopped by eating the whole thing. Eho (the year's good luck direction) is determined by the year's Zodiac sign. In 2016 this is the Monkey. The goddess of lucky directions, Toshitoku-jin, is believed to remain at the Eho during the year."
After opening speeches and the sushi-making demonstrations, we each tried it ourselves and then enjoyed the silent feast. It was great to catch up with some of the other Peace Fellows along with meeting new Rotary Club members afterward. Sean didn't accompany me today as Sunday is his favorite day for ultimate frisbee. Like always, all of the Rotarians are shocked and concerned when he doesn't go with me and they always make sure that I take some extra food home for him. Happy Setsubun! Here's hoping that spring arrives soon.