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What is a rice ball?

Nov 14, 2014 by Mia Uchida 0

I know that this post isn’t my typical blogpost, trying to tell you about new/ old popular culture in Japan.  …Or is it? 

If you’ve watched anime before, you may have seen characters eat those triangle things with black rectangles going through them: 

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You might even have asked “what the heck are those?” Well, this is what wikipedia says: Onigiri, also known as o-musubinigirimeshi or rice ball, is a Japanese food made from white rice formed into triangular or oval shapes and often wrapped in nori (seaweed).

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Wait, oh my gosh.  THEY’RE REAL. And real Japanese people eat real rice balls.  Well actually, Japanese people look at them more like peanut butter jelly sandwiches.  They’re a main staple for any lunch that you’ve had in Japan.  And they could be filled with virtually anything.  Back in the day, the fillings were much more organic.  Say, I don’t know, pickled plums or marinated vegetables.  Now you can even get them with tuna and mayo.  The 711 in Japan even had this one seasonal item: Bacon and egg rice balls. 

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Why are they triangular though?  This is a question that I’ve asked myself many a times.  Well, try doing this: when you cup your hands together, notice that the empty space between your hands actually makes more of a triangular shape, than a circular or rectangular one.  This mold is actually what makes a rice ball the way it is.  

A lot of foreigners are really disgusted, once they find out that rice balls are made with bare hands.  Well, the truth is that I have actually NEVER in my life made a rice ball with my bare hands.  It could be that I don’t really trust myself, but it’s mainly because the rice is too hot to hold.  

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Trust Japan to make a weird fetish out of anything though, and there’s one for rice balls.  Take a “kansetsu kiss”- it literally translates into an “indirect kiss”.  When you’re sharing a drink with someone, or your lips touch something that someone else’s lips touched, that’s a “kansetsu kiss”.  So, naturally, when you think about someone going through all the troubles of making something yummy to feed you, and they made it with their RAW, NATURAL OILS, it leads to something like THE GIST OF WHAT THIS WEIRDO TRIED TO DO: 

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Or, a more adorable and parent friendly version can be seen below: 

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Why are rice balls so popular?  I think it’s because they’re so filling.  It’s actually like eating one bowl of rice with toppings.  Maybe it’s nothing like that, but I think of them that way.  They’re also incredibly portable.  You can bring them with you anywhere, to go hike, or to school, or work, or a date.  Japan’s still got the DIY mentality, despite all of its technical offerings.  There’s still a great appreciation for the hands-on arts and home made food.  

If you’re curious about how to make a Japanese-style rice ball, you should just google directions or watch this person: 

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