Onigiri (おにぎり)

What’s Onigiri

Onigiri (お握り or 御握り), also often called omusubi (お結び), nigirimeshi (握り飯), or rice ball, is a Japanese food consisting of white rice shaped right into a triangular or cylindrical form and covered in nori. Japanese made this to slot in the palm of your hand. Locals treasured onigiri as a conveyable meal and bento in Japan from precedent days to the current day since it is simple to hold and eat by hand.

Originally developed as a method to preserve leftover rice or as portable food, onigiri quickly grew popular as a daily meal, and so they can now distribute in convenience shops and supermarkets.


Onigiri (おにぎり)

Within the Kojien dictionary, the word “onigiri” is written as “rice ball.” When you look up “nigiri-meshi”, you’ll find that “omusubi” and “nigiri-meshi” means “grilled rice”. There’s also a theory that the rice ball got its name from the Japanese word “onigiri,” which implies “to ward off evil spirits.”

Why is the form a triangle?

Onigiri (おにぎり)

“Probably the most well-known theory is that they imitate the form of a mountain.” Prior to now, people used to start out believing that “the gods live in mountains”. Or that “when the gods come from the sky to the earth, they first descend to the highest of the mountain.” In some unspecified time in the future, this became “Mountain is God,” which implies that the form of the mountain can be the form of God.

So why was the rice ball in the shape of a mountain (a god)? The essential phrase here is “omusubi,” one other term for rice balls. The word “musubu” is where the rice ball gets its name. Musubu, which bind friendships and alliances, has the connotation of “connection” or “forming a powerful bond.” In other words, being surrounded by a triangle is to “connect” with God.

Onigiri History

The earliest rice ball supposedly dates back to the Yayoi period. The invention of “Japan’s oldest rice ball” within the “Chanobatake Ruins” in Ishikawa Prefecture turn out to be evidence for this.

Middle to late Yayoi period

Carbonized rice lumps in the shape of rice balls were steamed after which secondary baked with sticky rice were discovered within the old Kasai-cho (now Naka-noto-cho), Ishikawa Prefecture.

Early Nara period

In “Hitachi no Kuni Fudoki,” considered one of the fudoki compiled by the imperial edict of Emperor Genmei, there’s an outline of ‘nigirii’.

Heian period

Aristocrats offered steamed sticky rice called as tonjiki to their servants during feasts. Moreover, locals claimed that in addition they employed this as a soldier’s portable meal.

Early Kamakura period

In the course of the Jokyu War, locals distributed ‘onigiri rice balls with pickled plums’ to samurai on the side of the Kamakura Shogunate. That is alleged to be why umeboshi spread throughout the country. Moreover, near the tip of the Kamakura era, non-glutinous rice was introduced.

Sengoku period

Onigiri are excellent as munitions. Thinbiki-na, or “Saimeshi rice balls,” were regularly prepared using rice. After Toyotomi Hideyoshi united Japan, white rice, which produces a bigger yield than red and black rice, gained popularity.

Edo period

Techniques for nori cultivation developed in the course of the Edo period, and nori farming began in Edomae (Tokyo Bay). The gathered seaweed gained notoriety under the name “Asakusa seaweed,” and used to make square paper using Japanese papermaking techniques.

Locals learned that this sort of seaweed was nutritious and had the advantage of keeping the rice from sticking to our hands once they wrapped it around onigiri, a convenient portable meal. In this manner, onigiri, evolved throughout time consequently of recent technology and innovation, continues to be valued as each day comfort food in Japan along with being a well-liked portable dish.

Onigiri Recipe

Onigiri (おにぎり)

Onigiri Ingredients

Ingredients of Onigiri for two people Measurements
Rice 400g 400g
Tuna pickled in oil 50g
Mayonnaise 28g
Soy sauce 28g
Nori (5×10cm) 20g

Methods to make Onigiri

Preparing and mixing the ingredients

Add tuna oil pickles, mayonnaise, and soy sauce to a bowl and blend.

Putting the filling contained in the rice

Spread 1/4 of the rice on the plastic wrap, top with 1/4 of the filling, wrap it, and shape it right into a triangle. Repeat this step.


Wrap it in nori and place it on a plate lined with shiso leaves.

Adjust the quantity of mayonnaise to your liking. Put it within the centre and hold it in order that the ingredients don’t come out.

Onigiri in among the prefectures in Japan


Umeboshi rice ball

Umeboshi (梅干 or 梅干し), literally means “dried ume” or “dried plum” is one of the vital popular tsukemono (traditional pickles) made from ume (plum) fruits.



Tenmusu are rice balls with shrimp tempura as a filling, wrapped with nori (seaweed).


Mentaiko musubi

Some of the popular ways by which spicy cod roe, or karashi mentaiko, is as a filling for rice balls, otherwise known in Japanese as onigiri, also often called omusubi or musubi.


Pork Egg Rice Ball

A preferred variation of Okinawa onigiri features a slice of spam and fried egg wrapped on a ball of rice with nori seaweed.

Onigiri vs Onigirazu

Onigiri (おにぎり)

Onigiri is a triangular or cylindrical dish made from white rice and wrapped in nori seaweed. Then again, onigirazu, which translates to “sushi sandwich,” is sushi. Onigirazu means “to not shape.” Much like a Japanese rice sandwich, onigirazu. Onigirazu is made by placing a giant sheet of nori on a cutting board, spreading rice in a square form, putting your alternative of filling, laying additional rice over the filling, and wrapping it with nori.

Difference between Onigiri and Omusubi

Onigiri (おにぎり)

Difference in shape

It is usually somewhat related to the “god of rice balls”, but evidently in ancient Japan, locals offered rice balls to the gods. Also, there’s a theory that rice balls shaped like triangular mountains were called ‘omusubi’ because there was a custom that mountains is said to gods since precedent days. Onigiri, alternatively, is claimed to have modified its name from rice ball to onigiri with none particular shape. Although there isn’t a specified shape reminiscent of a triangle or a bale shape, it indicates stuffed rice.

Regional differences

Locals mainly called onigiri, “omusubi” in eastern Japan, and onigiri in Kansai. Nonetheless, there’s also a theory that it was called onigiri in eastern Japan and omusubi in western Japan.

Good rice for onigiri

Onigiri (おにぎり)

When it comes to graininess, proper hardness, mouth untie, and tolerance, “Tsuyahime” from Yamagata Prefecture topped the list in all 4 categories. Nonetheless, Tsuyahime’s evaluation differs depending on the person. Individuals who like ‘Koshihikari’ don’t like ‘Tsuyahime’ since it’s too strong, and other people who like ‘Koshihikari’ are inclined to like ‘Nikomaru’ as well. ‘Tsuyahime’ has a definite graininess, but ‘Nikomaru’ has a comparatively higher sweetness and flavour.

Where to purchase Onigiri

Bongo (ぼんご)

There are 55 sorts of rice balls made by a long-established store that has been in business for 60 years. It’s a well-liked shop where you may have delicious rice balls without becoming bored even if you happen to go on daily basis. There are also standard ingredients reminiscent of salmon, mentaiko, and grilled cod roe, in addition to barely unusual ingredients reminiscent of surf clam salad and egg yolk pickled in soy sauce.

Address: Kaneda Constructing 1F, 2-26-3 Kita Otsuka, Toshima-ku
Phone number: 03-3910-5617
Hours open: [Mon-Sat] 11:30-23:00; Closed every Sunday
Website: http://www.onigiribongo.info/

Yadoroku (浅草宿六)

Founded in 1954, it was famous because the oldest rice ball specialty store in Japan, but recent years, it has turn out to be a hot topic because it was the primary rice ball specialty store listed within the Michelin Guide (Michelin Guide Tokyo 2019), and its popularity has increased further. The shop cook the Koshihikari rice balls in a big pot and wrapped it in fragrant Edo-style seaweed and punctiliously hand-rolled. The ingredients inside are also fastidiously chosen from throughout Japan.

Address: 3-9-10 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Phone number: 03-3874-1615
Hours open: Lunch: 11:30-(ends when rice runs out); Dinner: 17:00-(same as above)
Website: http://onigiriyadoroku.com/

Marutoyo (おにぎり屋 丸豊)

Marutoyo is a rice ball restaurant that’s very talked-about amongst tourists from overseas. Even though it makes a speciality of takeout, the rice uses Koshihikari rice from Niigata Prefecture, and the usual rice balls reminiscent of mentaiko, grilled cod roe, kelp, sujiko, salmon roe soy sauce. Shrimp tempura, in addition to scallops with salted kelp and grilled horse mackerel. As well as, seafood rice balls unique to Tsukiji reminiscent of oboro kelp, salmon belly, eel, clams, and salted fish are attractive.

Address: 4-9-9 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Phone number: 03-3541-6010
Hours open: [Mon-Sat] 5:00-15:00; Closed on Sunday
Website: https://www.tsukiji.or.jp/


Onigiri (おにぎり)

Onigiri rice balls are more common than sushi in Japan. Moreover, making onigiri is a logo of affection in Japanese culture. The “soul food” of the Japanese people could also be onigiri. Onigiri’s ease of customization is considered one of the things that makes them so well-liked. Also they are highly portable and you may eat them as a quick meal or bring them on picnics or trains. In conclusion, many Japanese nutritionists advise serving onigiri to children as an after-school snack quite than candy or chips.

When you are in love with Onigiri, you may as well try their other rice ball dishes, reminiscent of Tenmusu and Onigirazu

The post Onigiri (おにぎり) appeared first on Food in Japan.

Translate »