Inari sushi are seasoned and deep fried tofu pockets that are filled with sushi rice. Inari sushi is also commonly called “Oinari-san.” The name of this sushi comes from Inari, the Japanese god of foxes. It is said that the fox servants of the god love this fried tofu, which is how this food got its name. Let’s see what types of inari sushi there are.
How Inari Sushi’s Shape and Ingredient Differ Between East Japan and West Japan
In Eastern Japan, particularly in the Kanto region, inari with a sweet and salty flavor is popular. The filling is usually just plain sushi rice. Even with other ingredients, it usually is something simple like sesame seeds or renkon (lotus root) that’s added to the filling.
In Western Japan, particularly in the Kansai region, the inari have a light flavor using dashi soup stock and the flavor of the fried tofu itself. In the sushi rice, colorful ingredients like carrots and shiitake mushrooms are added.
Another unique difference is in Eastern Japan inari are bale shaped, while Western Japan’s inari are triangular in shape. It is said the triangular shape imitates the shape of a fox’s ears.
Inari Sushi with Special Filling
If you visit other regions besides Tokyo, you may find Inari Sushi with special filling. The photo on the left shows inari filled with “Osekihan” which is red rice made by cooking sweet rice with red beans. Osekihan is usually eaten during celebrations. The right photo shows inari with mountain vegetables and green peas, making the filling colorful and beautiful.
A set consisting of thick futomaki sushi rolls and inari sushi are called “Sukeroku Sushi.” You will find this in supermarkets of Japan, combini, train stations that sell bento, and at sushi restaurants. What does “Sukeroku” mean? Let’s see the history of this name.
The name “Sukeroku” comes from the main character’s name of a kabuki performance, “Sukerokuyukari no Edozakura.” Sukeroku's mistress is the Oiran of Yoshiwara, and her name is Agemaki. “Age” meaning “fried” and “maki” meaning roll, they took inari sushi and sushi rolls to create this set and called it the Sukeroku Sushi.
Inari Sushi for kids
Inari Sushi has a sweetness, and can be eaten with your hands, making it popular amongst children. It is often used in bento and is a popular food at parties. Mothers in Japan like to make cute bear or movie character patterns of inari sushi for their kids.