March 18, 2024

Onigiri Boom is Happening

An increasing number of specialty onigiri shops have recently opened in Tokyo, attracting Japanese and friends from abroad. These shops offer onigiri with various toppings and fillings that are Instagram-worthy at affordable prices.

According to Yusuke NAKAMURA, representative director of the Onigiri Association, a generally incorporated association promoting onigiri domestically and internationally, from 2022 to 2023, saw a boom in "special dish onigiri," especially by specialty stores. In addition to the popularity of takeout during the COVID-19 pandemic, the high cost of living these days is "Rice, with its stable price compared to wheat and other commodities, is attracting attention as a cost-effective Japanese food," according to Mr. Nakamura.

At the "Onigiri Summit" held by the Onigiri Association in February in Tokyo, a menu of "ultimate onigiri" was co-created and announced using ingredients from seven cities and towns, including rice from Minami-Uonuma City in Niigata Prefecture and leek miso made from leeks from Fukaya City in Saitama Prefecture. Mr. Nakamura says, "Onigiri goes well with various ingredients, making it easy to work on product development."

Onigiri is evolving in each of the following categories: "eating out" at restaurants, "home meal replacement" for takeout, and "eating in" when prepared at home or other places. A wide variety of products will be created in the future.

Onigiri can be vegan, or halal. Different cultures accept them. It is not pie in the sky to say that onigiri might be loved worldwide. It is a matter of time before Onigiri goes global.