Wrapped sushi with a magnolia hypoleuca tree leaf

What do you imagine when hearing the word “Sushi”? You may imagine a ball of rice topped with a slice of raw fish. Nara uses leaves to wrap its sushi and is a local food. The most famous is called Kakinoha-zushi. There is another type of wrapped sushi that is unknown to most people in Japan. This particular sushi is wrapped with a large magnolia hypoleuca leaf.

Kubota-tei gest house, the wrapping paper of the Houba-zushi

Kubota-tei gest house, the wrapping paper of the Houba-zushi

Eating Houba-zushi with a magnolia hypoleuca harvested in yagyu village.

Houba-zushi (wrapped sushi) was born in May 2001 at the guesthouse, ‘Kubota-tei’ in Yagyu.
It was originally the “Hougashiwa-bentou” that was wrapped with magnolia hypolecuca leaf and used as a childrens snack. At that time, Yagyu did not have any local specialties as souvenirs for visitors. The Houba-zushi was produced by requests from a tour company. The Houba-zushi wraps up different types of “Tsukudani” to include japonicas, salmon pickles, sweet pot tuna, dried young sardines, corbiculidae, beni shoga, and rice with a slight vinegar taste to it. Between May and June is the best season for eating Houba-zushi because this is when the magnolia tree sprouts with a delicious smell.

the magnolia tree with leaves, wooden clogs

the magnolia tree with leaves, wooden clogs

The magnolia tree and its relationship with the life of Japanese

The magnolia tree has been deeply connected to the life of the Japanese. The leaf is 20cm to 40cm long and is known as the largest leaf of all Japanese trees. Its large leaves were used for ceremonies, sutra copying, wrapping foods, and as a container to drink Sake. Today it’s used as the wrapping material of Houba-zushi and Houba-mochi (wrapping Sushi and Mochi), because of its delicious smell and ability to kill any bacteria that might be in the raw fish. It’s also good to use as a plate for cooking, because of its natural fire-retardant qualities. Its used to cook things like Houba-miso and Houba-yaki. The tree’s wood is used for the wood strips on the soles of clogs, planks for wooden block prints, Japanese kitchen knife handles, chopping boards, and Saya for Japanese swords.



325 Yagyu-cho, Nara-city, Nara Pref.

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Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.


Address 325 Yagyu-cho, Nara-city, Nara Pref.
Hours check in 15:00~ check out ~9:00
Access From JR or Kintestu Nara station to Yagyu by the bus, near ' Yagyukami' bus stop 5 minutes by walk
Phone 0742-94-0012