5 onigiri from the experts

The simple taste of onigiri from Tokyo’s rice shops

5 onigiri from the experts

As autumn draws close, the days and nights become easier to cope with and appetites begin to return. As everyone in Japan knows, when it comes to food, one of the staples here is rice; however, something that isn’t so widely known is that the rice shops receive a new shipment of fresh rice in early October. With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of rice shops in Tokyo who sell not only rice, but also homemade onigiri (rice balls).

While there’s nothing wrong with grabbing an onigiri or two at a local convenience store, when it comes to savouring the simple taste of hand pressed, homemade onigiri, you’ll get an altogether better bite to eat if you choose to go the extra distance and buy your onigiri from one of the shops listed below.

Tamagawa-ya (Jiyugaoka)

Yanagobo, Sansai, Sansai, Kyarabuki ¥120

Located approximately a three-minute walk from Jiyugaoka Station, Tamagawaya offer a range of different rice varieties, including white rice, haigamai (rice with the germ), glutinous rice and Thai rice – all freshly polished on the premises. On the right side of the store they offer as many as twenty different varieties of onigiri, with fillings ranging from ume (plum) and salmon, to kyarabuki (stalks of butterbur boiled in soy sauce), sansai wild vegetables, and yamagobo (pokeweed). Made with Niigata Koshihikari rice, onigiri here are plump and soft, and taste great even when chilled. The store operates a self-service style system, in which customers are required to choose their own onigiri and place them on one of the provided trays before paying at the register. Prices range from ¥120. (Full details & map)

Hatchobori Suzuki Kometen (Hatchobori)

Ume-okaka ¥170

Hatchobori Suzuki Kometen is located less than a one-minute walk from Hatchobori Station, down a side road directly off Shin-Ohashi Dori. At first glance you’d be forgiven for mistaking the shop for a café; however, their main business is the sale and distribution of rice. On the left side of the store, by the counter, they offer a range of different onigiri filled with salmon, ume and okaka (finely chopped dried bonito), konbu (kelp), chirimenjako (boiled and dried baby sardines), yakitarako (cooked cod roe), and various seasonal varieties. Onigiri here are made with relatively firm rice that’s been pressed together to give a soft and airy texture. On the right of the shop are some tables and chairs, at which, from 11am, the shop offers customers a lunchtime menu. Prices range from ¥170. (Full details & map)

Komezen Hirano (Kagurazaka)

Nanban-miso ¥168

To find Komezen Hirano, a rice dealer with over 100 years of history, exit Ushigome-Kagurazaka Station from the A1 exit and head down towards Ushigome Kitamachi intersection. Take a left at the intersection and walk on for another five minutes. You should then see the store on the right-hand side – next to a well-known soba shop called Shimahei. Onigiri offered here are made using Uonuma Koshihikari rice and include fillings ranging from popular favourites such as umeboshi (pickled plum), konbu, okaka, and tarako (cod roe), to a number of less common fillings such as chilli pepper leaves, and nanban-miso (paste made from chilli peppers and miso). Onigiri sold here are made to order and start at ¥147. (Full details & map)

Ono-ya Kometen (Tsukiji)

Shiso cheese ¥140

A rice dealer located next to Exit 4 of Tsukiji Station, Onoyakome offer a number of different onigiri – neatly displayed in a glass cabinet in a corner of the shop. In addition to common flavours, they also offer a number of more peculiar flavours, including brown rice, beefsteak plant leaves and cheese, karaage, and chicken with tomato ketchup. Another peculiar characteristic of the onigiri offered here is that the filling is contained in three different parts (rather than simply in the centre) to create a more even taste overall. A particularly popular onigiri spot, the store often sells out as early as 1pm. As an extra bonus, the shop also offers customers a selection of free takuan (daikon radish pickles) with their purchase – while supplies last. Prices range from ¥130. (Full details & map)

Iizuka Seimaiten (Gakugei-Daigaku)

Sujiko ¥150

To find Iizuka Seimaiten, take the East exit from Gakugei-Daigaku Station and head along the shopping street. Turn right at Resona Bank and continue straight on for five minutes. You should then see the store on the right-hand side. Divided into two parts, the shop sells onigiri on the right and rice on the left. In addition to a number of more common fillings, the wealth of different onigiri offered here (which are made using a special blend of rice that remains soft even when chilled) also includes flavours such as salmon roe, uni-kurage (sea urchin and jelly fish), karaage , and mayonnaise. Additionally, during the mornings, they also make a limited number of onigiri, such as shio-musubi (salted onigiri), using pesticide-free rice. Prices range from ¥130. (Full details & map)

By Takeshi Tojo
Photos by Shujiro
Translated by Brin Wilson
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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