At its most basic, an onigiri is a ball of white rice, lightly salted, that is molded into a triangular or oval shape, filled with condiments, and wrapped in seaweed. Don’t be fooled by its simplicity though! There are countless variations of onigiris, from the type of rice used to the different fillings.
In Japan, onigiris are popularly consumed for lunch or as a snack, and it is a favorite staple for picnics or as fuel on hikes. Its popularity is marked by the fact that almost all convenience stores and supermarkets in Japan have a shelf (or shelves!) dedicated to onigiris. You can grab an onigiri or two for a quick meal on a busy day or make some at home and serve them with miso soup for a filling breakfast or simple lunch.
Onigiris have been all the rage in Tokyo recently, with specialty shops popping up all across the city. Here are the top 9 onigiri specialty shops in the Tokyo area.
1. Honnoriya (Tokyo Station)
Located in the bustle of Tokyo station, this popular shop aims to recreate the nostalgic taste of a mother’s cooking. Just a quick glance will show you that these onigiris are definitely not machine made; each one has been hand made with great care. In addition to the more traditional fillings like sake (salmon) and tarako (cod roe), they offer seasonal fillings, using the freshest in-season ingredients. You can get the onigiris to-go or devour your purchases in their eat-in space. Be ready to wait a little though; depending on when you go, there might be a line.
Address: 1F, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 6:30～22:00
Phone number: +81 3-5219-1136
2. Onigiri Asakusa Yadoroku (Asakusa)
Known as the oldest onigiri shop in Tokyo, this charming shop first opened its doors all the way back in 1954. Their simple decor and wooden counter are reminiscent of a sushi restaurant, but instead of fish, their displays are filled with various fresh onigiri ingredients. Once you order, the chef will make your onigiris one by one, right there on the spot, ensuring maximum freshness. Highly recommended is their lunch set – two onigiris, a bowl of hot miso soup, and pickles – or getting some onigiris to go and munching on them while walking around Asakusa.
3. Bongo (Otsuka)
Founded in 1960, Bongo is another popular shop with a long history and a large fan base. It is especially known for its big onigiris and the sheer number of options you have; in addition to the traditional fillings, they offer unique combinations like salmon-mayo, karaage (fried chicken), and curry. The onigiris are made in front of you, and you can also make your own customized onigiris if you are feeling ambitious! For an especially filling meal, try their set of three onigiris and unlimited bowls of miso soup.
4. Omusubi no GABA (Akihabara)
For health conscious eaters, this is the go-to shop. Omusubi no GABA uses GABA rice, or germinated brown rice. With a sleek and modern interior, Omusubi no GABA boasts many unique options, from a simple shio-musubi (plain onigiri seasoned with salt) to the slightly more expensive foie gras onigiri. Try their set meals, which comes with a steaming bowl of miso soup. If you’re feeling particularly hungry, you can also order other appetizers like karaage (fried chicken) or French fries. They also serve alcohol, so you can drop by after a long day for a beer and freshly made onigiris.
5. Kamataya (Jujo)
Located on the Jujo shopping street, this popular shop sells all of its onigiris for just 110 yen! The very affordable price and the relatively smaller onigiri size means that you can try many different flavors without overstuffing yourself. For first-time visitors, it is recommended that you get a combination of more orthodox, simple fillings, like umeboshi (pickled plum) and okaka (dried bonito flakes), and the more unique fillings, like nasu-miso (eggplant with miso) and korokke (or croquette, deep-fried potato patties). Die-hard fans of this shop visit frequently to try all of their fillings, including the seasonal ones.
Address: 3-29-15 Kamijujo, Kita-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 6:30～17:30
Phone number: +81 3-3906-2044
6. Onigiriya Marutoyo (Tsukiji)
Marutoyo is quite a famous shop in the Tsukiji Market. It is open very early from 5AM, but it also closes relatively early at 3PM, so make sure you get there before they close shop. The onigiris here are also very popular among the workers in the market, so get there early if you want a wide selection. Popular choices include the bakudan onigiri, which is filled with a soft-boiled egg, and obviously, you can’t go wrong with any of their fish fillings, like salmon, eel, and tuna. You can also order miso soup or other appetizers like pickled vegetables to round out your meal.
Name: Onigiriya Marutoyo
Address: 4-9-9 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 5:00～15:00
Phone number: +81 3-3541-6010
7. Iizuka Seimaiten (Gakugei-Daigaku)
Iizuka Seimaiten is part rice shop, part onigiri shop that sells a wide variety of onigiris that are made using their own special blend of pesticide-free rice. Though you will find many choices of fillings here, the star is clearly the rice; it is so sweet and flavorful that you should definitely try their shio-musubi (salted onigiri with no filling) so that you can enjoy just the rice on its own. Other favorites include ikura (salmon roe) and tuna-mayonnaise. Although they are open until 8PM, get there early, as they often run out by evening!
8. Maimai (Shimbashi)
Zakkokumai, or rice mixed with seeds, beans, and millet, has gained a lot of popularity in Japan in recent years as an healthier alternative to white rice. Maimai uses zakkokumai for its onigiris, and they have a wide selection of healthy and fresh fillings, many of which are vegetable based. If you have room in your stomach, you should also try their popular dry curry, served over a generous portion of zakkokumai. There is a small table next to the shop where you can stand and eat your onigiris as you people watch in one of the busiest stations in Tokyo.
9. Onigily Cafe (Nakameguro)
Located in the hip and posh neighborhood of Nakameguro, this shop is known to be frequented by Japanese celebrities. The breakfast set is quite popular; you can choose two onigiris and also get a small dish of vegetables, miso soup, and a drink. Equally popular is their lunch set – one shio-musubi (salt onigiri), one onigiri of your choice, karaage (friend chicken), two small dishes of vegetables, and miso soup. You can also take your onigiris to go; the friendly staff will pack your goods in a custom-fit box that ensures your onigiris are not damaged as you carry them out.
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