Photo: SoraNews24

Cost of uneaten ehomaki sushi rolls in 2022 estimated to be over ¥1 billion

By SoraNews24

Another Setsubun is behind us and hopefully everyone in Japan was able to enjoy the many delicious ehomaki sushi rolls sold during the holiday, fully loaded with all kinds of good stuff. Anyone who didn’t really has no excuse either, because according to a study by journalist and food-loss expert Rumi Ide, there was absolutely no shortage this year.

In fact, in a survey of 85 businesses who sold ehomaki Ide’s team found that the number of unsold sushi skyrocketed from 216 rolls in 2021 to 1,508 in 2022. When projecting these numbers to all ehomaki dealers in Japan, that would amount to 1,396,443 rolls, valued at approximately 1,029,170,000 yen.

The method of counting in this survey considered each package as “one ehomaki” even if the package contains two or three rolls. Given that, it’s probably safe to say this is a rather conservative estimate, but why are businesses eager to toss away so much food and money?

The manager of one major supermarket told Ide that they usually make sure to have more than needed because the financial loss of sushi disposal is considered less damaging than the negative effects of turning away customers when sold out.

It’s also worth noting that the ehomaki tradition is relatively new in parts of Japan outside of the Kansai region, where it originated. It has only begun to really catch on in certain places in recent years, so demand can be very hard to gauge, and even harder recently with the COVID-19 pandemic and associated states of emergency disrupting consumer habits in unprecedented ways.

However, this problem extends far beyond economics. For starters, there’s the clear tragedy of so much valuable food going to waste while many people are struggling to eat. In addition, using Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data, Ide calculated that a single ehomaki requires roughly 120 liters to make and has a carbon footprint of about 528 grams.

Therefore, Ide’s estimated million-plus loss of sushi rolls would amount to 166,870,000 liters of completely wasted water – enough to fill 154 Olympic sized swimming pools. The total carbon footprint of this single day’s wasted ehomaki would amount to 737 tons, which is equivalent to the amount emitted by 86 average Japanese people over the course of an entire year.

Clearly nothing good is coming of this, so the question remains how to combat this problem. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries sent out an advisory to businesses regarding this problem, and one supermarket that followed their guidelines, managed to reduce their ehomaki waste to a miniscule 0.16 percent. But it will likely take time for others to adopt the guidelines, if at all, and as the supermarket manager told Ide, they will always err on the side of excess.

An order-made reservation system enjoyed by other seasonal foods like Christmas cake or New Year’s osechi meal boxes would be effective at mitigating waste. However, unlike those foods, most people go for ehomaki that are sold for under 1,000 yen, so they aren’t considered high-end enough for such an effort.

As a result of her full analysis, Ide’s final recommendation for consumers is to buy their ehomaki from specialized sushi shops. Convenience store chains tend to make up the bulk of wasted ehomaki, followed by supermarkets. Sushi-centric businesses like restaurants, however, are in a very distant third place in terms of waste, likely because they have a far better sense of demand in their local areas. In this way, sushi fans can further push all businesses onto the right track by spending money on those who don’t waste. This also has the added benefit of supporting local businesses and in all likelihood getting better quality ehomaki as a result.

Source: Yahoo! Japan NewsHachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Behold a 10,000-yen sushi roll covered in gold! 【Taste Test】

-- Japanese department store wishes you a good year ahead with 150 types of delicious ehomaki

-- Subway rivals a traditional Japanese sushi roll with its own traditional Japanese BLT

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Ide calculated that a single ehomaki requires roughly 120 liters to make and has a carbon footprint of about 528 grams.

1 sushi roll requires 120 liters of water to make? Absurd and unsustainable if true.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

And all these companies that waste the food probably have managers walking around with SDG lapel pins. Right.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

I think they meant one roll requires 120 milliliters of water to make, not liters.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

like the article states, this is relatively new outside of Kansai and many people around me don't feel the urge to buy them. It is another abused cultural practice that many are trying to make a profit off of since it is something that occurs yearly. Just like valentine's day in Japan, the chocolate companies have abused the entirety of this cultural practice by introducing things like giri choco (obligation chocolates) and white day.

I'm sure many just decided to make their own ehomaki at home.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@gaijinjland. I don’t think you realize the environmental impact of food especially when it comes to the amount of water used. It takes about 380 L of water to make 1 L of almond milk. This amount for an ehomaki seems in line

2 ( +5 / -3 )

In my first year in Japan I worked for a few months in a pizzeria, this was my first and last experience in the food industry. They discard food as if it was plastic (misplaced orders or for other reasons that dont make any sense at all).

"Yarinaosu!" = throw beautiful pizza/pasta into trash bin as if it was nothing

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Have you ever seen how much sushi is thrown away from those kaiten sushi places? It's ridiculous. No wonder the fish are going extinct.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Have you ever seen how much sushi is thrown away from those kaiten sushi places? It's ridiculous. No wonder the fish are going extinct.

Just look at the amount of bento boxes that were discarded during the Tokyo Olympics.

Heartless and just pure insanity.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I’m always shocked by how there is such a lack of things like soup kitchens or food drives in Japan that could use this kind of resource

4 ( +5 / -1 )

My son, also a part timer in a supermarket in Japan reports huge amounts of food thrown out.

There are plenty of poor people in Japan but somehow food doesn’t seem to be a resource that is easily given to the poor.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Will definitely pass on this bit of useless (and tasteless) silliness next year. Eating the entire ehomaki ‘in silence facing a certain direction’ these last two years reminded us too much of all the government nonsense and regimentation of behaviors. Then, watching the news footage the next day of the same greedy corporations dumping tonnes of wasted food that could have been given away to Japan’s working poor is sickening.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Thanks for that link @zichi 4:55pm. Would also be interested in reading your source about those wasteful Americans and any other fat cat nations wasting food while many children go to bed each night hungry:

*- @2:57pm: “All other western countries also have high levels of food waste. Americans throw out more than 50% of the food they buy.” -*

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Here’s some stomach turning stats regarding Japan: -

[paraphrased]: “Japan is known for its pop culture, life, fashion & international business. Yet, hunger in Japan is a bigger issue than what the surface shows. It is not often considered that there are so many people living in absolute poverty (the equivalent of making less than $1.25 per day). Japan has a population of 126,466,402 citizens. … the 3rd-largest economy in the world, it is accompanied by a poverty rate of 15%. That means 18,969,960 people in Japan are living below the poverty line. The main causes of food insecurity in Japan include unemployment and disability…” -

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I think they meant one roll requires 120 milliliters of water to make, not liters.

No. 120 litres is totally plausible.


Cost of uneaten ehomaki sushi rolls in 2022 estimated to be over ¥1 billion

isn't. Retail price bears scant resemblance to price at factory gates.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Distribute them to the thousands of homeless in the Airin district.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

800-1000 for maki? No thank you.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why don't they give it to homeless people at the end of the day? Or just lower the price or even make it free near to the closing shift or next day if possible to consume.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

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