Seaweed and rice packaged in a surprise, pick them up at convenience stores or from handmade hole-in-the-wall specialty shops; onigiri rice balls are simple and compact, Japan’s triangular snack to grab on the run.

Also known as omusubi or nigirimeshi, the humble onigiri rice ball has long served Japan as a meal on-the-go, tiny compressed triangles that fit in your pocket. Sporadically documented throughout history, onigiri as we know it today was eaten during the Heian period, although, there’s archeological evidence of rice moulding in Japan from over 2000 years ago. A historically convenient snack in Japan, onigiri are simply Japanese rice and nori (seaweed) wrapped around a wide range of fillings. There’s classic flavors like salmon or tuna, or fillings of sweetened kombu (kelp), but for some snackers out there, simple salty onigiri are inexplicably addictive, while others are committed to the classic tuna mayo. Tasty and functional, simple yet satisfying. Onigiri are inexpensive, easy to make, and easily edible.

From sour umeboshi pickled plum to stretchy natto soybeans fillings available are diverse and divisive, but always an exciting surprise in a tidy seaweed package. Try tasty tenmusu (popular prawn tempura onigiri) in Nagoya, or try spam onigiri in Okinawa, or one from Kyushu with sweetened seaweed. Grab one handmade at your local specialty shop, or pick them up from convenience stores. Or even better, learn the best onigiri making technique at a bento cooking class in Kyoto, or discover Tokyo’s oldest onigiri shop during a food tour. A quintessential Japanese fast food, this tiny ball of bliss will satisfy anyone, anytime, anywhere.

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