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It seems there are three words for the same Japanese food item, a kind of "sushi in a long roll":

  • "巻寿司" (makizushi)
  • "海苔巻き" (norimaki)
  • "巻物" (makimono)

Are they all identical / synonyms? Do they refer to subtly different things? Are they used in different regions? Are they used by different generations of Japanese?

[Sidenote: At the risk of side-tracking another food question, there only seems to be one word for these in Korean: "김밥" (gimbap).]

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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The literal meanings of these words are:

  • 巻寿司 (まきずし): sushi roll
  • 海苔巻き (のりまき): something rolled with nori, a specific kind of seaweed
  • 巻物 (まきもの): something rolled

海苔巻き usually refers to sushi roll with nori, but depending on the context, it can refer to other kinds of food, including 海苔巻き卵 (のりまきたまご) and 海苔巻き煎餅 (のりまきせんべい).

Unlike 海苔巻き, I do not think that 巻物 is understood as sushi roll unless it is clear from the context that one is talking about sushi. As crunchyt wrote, 巻物 can also mean a scroll.

When used to describe kinds of sushi, these three words are almost synonymous, but sushi rolled with something other than nori (usually egg) can be called 巻寿司 or 巻物 but not 海苔巻き.

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I guess laver is のり? Do you mind if I put an edit to those of us who're not so familiar with English seaweed words? I actually think more people know it just as nori rather than laver anyway. :) –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 14 '11 at 18:46
    
@Boaz: Thanks for the suggestion! I rewrote laver to nori and added a link to Wikipedia (not following your suggestion :) ). I wanted to avoid the word seaweed because it is broader than what nori refers. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 14 '11 at 19:21
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Norimaki & Makizushi both refer to the rolled up sushi. Makizushi is used more commonly used than Norimaki. INterestingly Google has 2.28M occurrences of Norimaki but 4.85M of Makizushi.

Makimono (lit: rolled up thing) covers rolled sushi but also describes calligraphic scrolls.

From my experience, older people to use the term Makimono, whereas makizushi is very heard. I've never had a conversation where the term "norimaki" came up, and I used to work in a Japanese restaurant with people form Nagoya, so maybe that one is regional.

Searching the usual Japanese resources did not yield any definitive answers.

PS: Inuit have over one hundred words for snow (ref: http://www.mendosa.com/snow.html). So if Korea only has one word, I guess that shows how important a part of Japanese culinary culture sushi is :D Of course Korea rules when it comes to Bulgogi/Yakiniku.

EDIT: Fixed for anthropological accuracy, and to garner an up vote from @Hippietrail

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I can't upvote you until you restrain from spreading the eskimo snow myth. There is "qanuk" and "aniu" and maybe a couple more if you're lucky d-: –  hippietrail Jun 14 '11 at 13:38
    
Make sure you read to the end of the linked Inuit list so you get the full effect of it's authenticity! –  crunchyt Jun 14 '11 at 13:45
    
LOL. I guess those eskimos guys ate a lot of MacTla because they had nothing else to eat there in Eskimonia. –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 14 '11 at 18:52
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