Makizushi and Ohagi for Ohigan

In celebration of the Vernal Equinox (Ohigan) I visited Oda with a fellow teacher to learn the simple art of making makizushi and ohagi. Makizushi is the sandwich of Japan – a sushi roll filled with any variety of ingredients and eaten as the main course of a meal. Ohagi are mochi rice balls covered in sweet azuki bean paste. Both are quite simple to make – but sometimes that’s the best reason to learn from a seasoned professional; to make something simple into something elegant and brilliantly delicious.

Makizushi (Rolled Sushi)

1. Prepare fillings:

  • Nimono (vegetables boiled in shouyu, dashi and sugar)
  • Sprouts
  • Sashimi w. Wasabi

2. Prepare a sufficient amount of Japanese rice to fill the number of tummies you’ll be dining with. (You can use a rice cooker or a nabe (recommended)).

3. Prepare the vinegar mix:

  • Rice Vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Salt

Amounts are to your own taste. Bring all of the ingredients to a dissolvable temperature in a saucepan.

3. Mix the steaming hot rice with the vinegar mixture and fan to cool.

4. Place a sheet of nori (seaweed) on a bamboo rolling mat.

5. Spread a thin layer of rice onto the nori – being careful to leave some space along the edges and at the far end for keeping ingredients inside the roll.

6. Make a shallow indent in the rice about 1/3 of the way from the near edge of the nori.

7. Place a small pile of ingredients along the indent. (We used one length of goubou, one carrot, two shiitake, a couple of sprouts, and a piece of aburage (fried tofu)).

8. Roll! Be careful to ensure the ingredients are sufficiently tucked into the center of the roll. Don’t push too hard as you’ll alter the texture of the rice inside the roll. Light and airy is best for flavor and chewability.

9. A successful makizushi – ready to be cut into rounds:


1. Pre-soak and steam enough mochi rice to accommodate the appetite of your guests.

2. Prepare tsubuan (sweet azuki bean paste) by pre-soaking and boiling azuki beans. Add sugar to taste, and a dash of salt to create some delicious friction of flavors.

3. Using light pressure, create balls of mochi rice in your palms.

4. Roll the mochi balls in a bowl of prepared tsubuan. Use your fingers to ensure the mochi ball is evenly covered in a thin layer of tsubuan.

Setting the table in preparation for a lunchtime feast. We ate in a beautifully naturally-lit room overlooking the family’s garden.

Our Ohigan Lunch:

  • Nimono (tofu, konnyaku (devil’s tongue), and winter squash)
  • Horenso (spinach) and sesame salad.
  • Makizushi
  • Ohagi
  • Sashimi
  • Sumono (thinly-sliced vegetables dressed in vinegar)
  • Misoshiru

After over-eating at lunch, we went for a brief stroll through the house to search for old and interesting goods. We found plenty, including a 100-year old wooden box for keeping rice warm before meals. When we returned to the dining area we found preparations for a hirune (afternoon nap) awaiting us: futon, pillows, blanket and strawberries.

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