The Onigiri (Omusubi) FAQ

Joined: 3 Jul 2009
User offline. Last seen 9 years 17 weeks ago.

In the subject FAQ, you say that omusubi can be any shape. I am a fan of NHK Taiga drama and I noticed that during the Sengoku Jidai period, the warring states era, that the omusubi was round. In Hawaii where I am from, round omusubi was only served at funerals and never any time else. And fell into the category of only at funerals. Like passing anything from chopsticks to chopsticks.

I have also heard it said that triangular omusubi represented ten-shi-jin, heaven-earth-mankind.

Any information you have on this aspect of omusubi would be appreciated.

:) ありがとうございます。


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Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 3 weeks 3 days ago.
Re: The Onigiri (Omusubi) FAQ

I think the onigiri shape significance thing came up somewhere else...maybe on the Onigiri FAQ page itself. I've done a lot of googling on the subject, and asked my mother and aunt, and they say that basically there really isn't much significance to the shape of onigiri anymore, if there ever was. Round onigiri don't play any role in funerals either - when my grandfather died he was offered a plain bowl of rice with chopsticks stuck in it, and the only special thing about the funeral feast served to family and guests was that it _shojin_ - i.e. vegetarian, with no fish/meat. (Not sure about could have been vegan.)

Now, I have a theory that people in Hawaii who are descendents of Japanese immigrants may have certain customs and so on related to onigiri/omusubi because many came from the Hiroshima area (where onigiri are called omusubi; in most of the rest of the country they are called onigiri). I am not from the Hiroshima area, and none of my family is, so I'm not familiar with customs there, but it makes sense to me logically.

As for the old time onigiri you see on the NHK Taiga Drama, I think they are round just because that was (at the time depicted) the most practical way to carry around rice/fuel! I haven't seen it, but I guess they were just plain, with no nori and so on right? (An onigiri just formed like that with salt is called a shiomusubi.)


The Big Onigiri.

- Wherever you go, there you are. -

Joined: 3 Jul 2009
User offline. Last seen 9 years 17 weeks ago.
Re: The Onigiri (Omusubi) FAQ

Thank you very much for your research and your thoughts on this issue.

You are quite right about the appearance of the onigiri in the NHK Taiga Drama, they are plain with no nori.

Your theory of the custom being peculiar to Hiroshima is interesting. My Mother's side of the family is from Hiroshima. I do not know what part of the Japanese immigrants to Hawaii were from Hiroshima. My Father's side of the family came from Yamaguchi.

I don't know that the custom of round omusubi is still practiced in Hawaii. I know that shojin isn't anymore. The food served at my Father's services included meat.

I am enjoying your web site and forum.

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