The Reason Tuna Rolled Sushi Is Called Tekkamaki or Gamblers’ Roll

Tekkamaki is sliced raw tuna rolled in vinegared rice (sushi rice) and dried seaweed. As known by the words tekka-ba (gaming room) and tekka-hada (hot-tempered personality), the word tekka refers to a gambler.

Although sushi and gamblers are a strange association, it is surprising that tekkamaki came about because of them.


Japanese playing cards hana-fuda or flower cards were mostly used in the past in gambling houses.  Absorbed in their gambling, the gamblers would frequently forget to take the time to eat.  Still more, during intense moments of winning and losing, taking a break and enjoying a leisurely meal was out of the question.

Be that as it may, the gamblers would nevertheless become hungry.  Sushi attracted attention because it was convenient.  The gamblers could continue gambling while eating sushi.

Because the sushi could be held in one hand, the other hand could be used to handle the playing cards.  However, the fingertips would become sticky from eating the sushi balls topped with tuna or other fish.  It would then become difficult to handle the cards.  The cards would also become dirty.  At this time, the sushi wrapped in nori (dried laver) came to mind.  The hands would not become dirty and the sushi could of course be easily eaten without the need of chopsticks.

When a sushi shop worker wrapped the well-liked tuna in nori and presented it to the gamblers, they were able to stuff their faces with the tekkamaki with one hand while using the other one to freely deal out the playing cards.

Thus, as the ideal fast food best suited for gamblers, tekkamaki was born. So, the next time you are out gambling, why don’t you follow the example of old-time gamblers and enjoy their favorite tekkamaki?

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