Rice balls (onigiri, o-nigiri おにぎり)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Topic
***** Category: Humanity


Westerners eat sandwiches, Japanese eat onigiri.
It is one of the favorite outdoor snacks.

o-nigiri, "the honorable hand-kneaded"
おにぎり/ お握り / 御握り

When kneading onigiri, you add a little salt to the palm of your hand to add some flavor to the food.
tejio ni kakeru 手塩, "hand-salt", which is also an expression for a child or a plant or something that you bring up with utmost care.

nigirimeshi にぎりめし

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The first mention seems to be already in the Genji Monogatari by Murasaki Shikibu.


Onigiri (御握り; おにぎり), also known as
Omusubi (おむすび, O-musubi),

is a snack of Japanese rice formed into triangle or oval shapes and wrapped in nori (edible seaweed). Traditionally, the onigiri is filled with pickled salted plum fruit (umeboshi), salted salmon, bonito shavings, katsuobushi, or any other salty or sour ingredient.

In practice, pickled filling is used for preservation of the rice. Since the onigiri is one of the most famed and popular snacks in Japan, most convenience stores in Japan stock onigiri in many popular fillings and tastes. Specialized shops, called Onigiri-ya, offer handmade rice balls for take out.

The Murasaki Shikibu Nikki, the diary of the Lady Murasaki, writes of people eating rice balls during her time, the eleventh century. The rice ball was called tojiki (tonjiki) and often consumed as an outdoor picnic lunch.

Writings dating back as far as the 17th century tell us that many samurai stored rice balls wrapped in bamboo leaves as a quick lunchtime meal at war, but the origins of onigiri are much earlier. Before the use of chopsticks became widespread in the Nara period, rice was often rolled into a small ball so that it could be easily picked up. In the Heian period, rice was also made into small rectangular shapes called tonjiki (頓食; とんじき), so that they could be piled onto a plate and easily eaten.

From the Kamakura period to the early Edo period, onigiri was used as a quick meal. This made sense as cooks simply had to think about making enough onigiri and did not have to concern themselves with serving. These onigiri were simply a ball of rice flavored with salt. Nori seaweed did not become widely available until the Genroku era during the mid-Edo period, when the farming of nori and fashioning it into sheets became widespread.

It was believed that onigiri could not be produced with a machine as the hand rolling technique was considered too difficult to replicate. In the 1980s, a machine that made triangular onigiri was built. This was initially met with skepticism because rather than having the filling traditionally rolled inside, the flavoring was simply put into a hole in onigiri and this shortcut was hidden by the nori.

Since the onigiri made by this machine came with nori already applied to the rice ball, over time the nori became unpleasantly moist and sticky, clinging to the rice. A packaging improvement allowed the nori to be stored separately from the rice. Before eating, the diner could open the packet of nori and wrap the onigiri. The machines' limitation that an ingredient was filled into a hole instead of rolled together with the rice actually made new flavors of onigiri easier to produce as this cooking process did not require changes from ingredient to ingredient.

O-musubi and O-nigiri is not a form of sushi, despite common misconception.
While o-musubi is made with plain rice (perhaps lightly salted), sushi is made of rice with vinegar added. O-musubi is merely a method of making rice portable and easy to eat, while sushi originated as a way of preserving freshwater fish.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


June 18 is is "Onigiri Day" 御握りの日
celebrating the rice ball !

Musubi-Maru from Sendai - after the Earthquake in 2011.


Usually a large sheet of nori seaweed is wrapped around the rice ball.
But in Kansai, a small sheet of ajitsuke nori 味付けのリ is used.

The nigiri are short rolls, with the nori as a band around them.


mokamusu もかむす Moka Musu
(Monaka Musubi)
musubi with a monaka wafer outside.
The wafer is made from mochigome dough and some sprinkles of nori. They come in different colors and flavors, like normal musubi.
Sold in department stores in Hyogo prefecture.
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riceball with something on the TOP /ten 天
Tenmusu are small rice balls containing shrimp tempura. But lately
not only for tenpura, but other things too
Originally from Nagoya.
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Tempura is a traditional dish consisting of shrimp, fish, and vegetables dipped into a batter of eggs, flour, and water and then deep-fried. Although it is usually served with rice and a dipping sauce mixed with grated radish, a restaurant owner in Tsu, Mie Prefecture, just over the Aichi border, came up with a new twist back in 1953.

The tempura was not offered as a separate dish but placed inside a ball of rice and wrapped in nori (thin, crispy dried seaweed), thus creating a tempura o-musubi--a traditional meal for travelers and others on the go. This was easier said than done, though, for there was the problem of how to get the sauce--a mixture of soy sauce, mirin (sweet sake), and dashi (stock)--inside the ball of rice. Tempura without this seasoning would taste too bland. And if the tempura was dipped in sauce beforehand, the extra liquid would cause the o-musubi to fall apart.

Given the wealth of natural spices and flavors available in Japanese cuisine, though, the tempura shop owner knew a carefully balanced mixture could be added to the batter that would provide sufficient lift for the tempura, even when consumed hours later. For instance, one could try mitsuba (Japanese wild chervil), shiso (beefsteak plant leaf), togarashi (cayenne pepper), or yuzu-no-kawa (chopped citron peel), in addition to the normal sauce and grated radish. The owner experimented for three years before settling on the "perfect" formula. The owner admits using mitsuba and some form of sauce, but the full list of ingredients, unchanged for over 40 years, is a well-kept secret--the pride of its creator.
source : www2.aia.pref.aichi.jp

takomusu たこむす with a full takoyaki ball on top of it
takoyaki musubi たこ焼き + おむすび, speciality of Osaka
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yaki onigiri 焼きおにぎり 
roasted or grilled onigiri

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online reference


onigiriya おにぎり屋
stores or restaurants specializing in rice balls

Izakaya pubs also serve onigiri, usually eaten after the drinking time is over, shortly before going home.

The 24 hour convenience stores also sell different flavors of onigiri. Their taste has improved greatly over the years and they are a favorite with young and old.

Set of Onigiri from a local food shop.


onigiri おにぎり鬼 Onigiri demons

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Made for the Setsubun rituals ;
. Setsubun Festival 節分 (February 3) .
fuku wa uchi 福は内(ふくはうち)"Good luck, come in!"
oni wa soto 鬼は外(おにはそと)"Demons, go out! "

. The Onipedia - Japanese Demons .

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

Genji Monogatari, The Tale of Genji 源氏物語


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onigiriya shake ga potsun to hiza ni ochi

rice ball store ...
a piece of salmon flake
drops on my knee   

Takashi 高司


korogatta sachi o sagashi ni nigirimeshi

looking for the filling
that fell down ...
rice ball

Itano Yohsiko 板野美子

Related words

***** WASHOKU - Japanese Food - Nori

***** . WASHOKU
Umeboshi 梅干 dried pickled salty plums



- #onigiri #riceballs -


Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Kyoto 京都府
天田郡 Amata district 三和町 Miwa town

. kaze no kami 風邪の神 Deity of the common cold .
風邪の神 Kaze no Kami is also seen as 庚申さん Koshin san.
When a child is healed from hashika はしか the measles, people pack some nigiri おにぎり rice ball offerings in straw and bring them to his shrine.

Gabi Greve said...

Takagi Jinja 高木神社 Takagi Shrine

O-Musubi Jinja お結び神社 
O-Nigiri Jinja おにぎり神社

The meaning of rice "omusubi" comes from the main deity of this Shrine:
高皇産霊神 (たかみむすびのかみ) Takami musubi no kami

Gabi Greve said...

A legend about Gyōki 行基菩薩 Gyoki Bosatsu
Once upon a time a priest (they say it was 行基菩薩 Saint Gyoki Bosatsu) came to the village
and wanted to eat musubi むすび rice balls, but one fell down.
It changed and became a the seed of a chestnut.
The villagers planted it and it became a great chestnut tree.
But then it dried up and the tree does not exist any more.