Onigiri Gekijou turns rice balls into edible art

Versatile, economical, and delicious – onigiri, or rice balls, are a mainstay of Japanese cuisine for good reason. Now, thanks to Onigiri Gekijou, the humble bentō staple has been turned up to 11 and transformed into a myriad of characters. 

Onigiri Gekijou turns onigiri into art

A Japanese YouTuber, known as Onigiri Gekijou (おにぎり劇場; rice ball theatre), has been putting a creative spin on onigiri by turning them into popular characters. Instead of moulding the rice into a triangular shape, as one normally does, Onigiri Gekijou uses plain rice and a few simple ingredients to create edible works of art. 

Anthropomorphic onigiri depict a wide range of subjects

Onigiri Gekijou - murasaki shikibu onigiri
Murasaki Shikibu
Image credit: @mZHtgivNQr33RCL

The YouTuber’s selection of rice balls sculptures depict a wide range of characters, including Murasaki Shikibu, one of Japan’s most prolific novelists and the author of The Tale of Genji.

Onigiri Gekijou - beethoven onigiri
Image credit: @mZHtgivNQr33RCL

Inspiration can come from anywhere – even from the history of Western classical music. Thanks to Onigiri Gekijou, classical musician Beethoven was given a new life, albeit in the form of a tasty treat. 

Onigiri Gekijou - leon the professional onigiri
Léon from “Léon: The Professional”
Image credit: @mZHtgivNQr33RCL

There are even references to cult films. Exhibit A – Onigiri Gekijou moulding rice and other ingredients to create the iconic hitman from the 1994 film, Léon: The Professional

Onigiri Gekijou - inosuke onigiri
Inosuke from “Demon Slayer” 
Image credit: @mZHtgivNQr33RCL

At the height of the demon slaying craze last October, the YouTuber also made an Inosuke rice ball from the popular series. Complete with his pair of Nichirin blades, which were carved from white kamaboko (Japanese fish cake), Inosuke looks ready for combat. 

Onigiri Gekijou - tanuki and kitsune onigiri
Tanuki (left) and Kitsune (right).
Image adapted from: @mZHtgivNQr33RCL and @mZHtgivNQr33RCL

And of course, it’s only fitting to have the traditional Japanese snack take on the shapes of traditional characters from Japanese folklore, such as the cheeky tanuki (raccoon dog) and kitsune (fox).

Onigiri Gekijou - panda onigiri
Image credit: @mZHtgivNQr33RCL

Besides fictional characters, Onigiri Gekijou also excels in creating realistic and lifelike animal-shaped rice balls. For example, they fashioned a cute and grumpy panda from rice, black sesame paste, and nori (seaweed). Daikon radish sprouts were added as finishing touches. 

How to recreate them at home

If you’d like to recreate these quirky snacks at home, check out Onigiri Gekijou’s video tutorials and behind-the-scenes footage here. Though there are no subtitles, each video breaks down and demonstrates the steps needed to turn plain rice into elaborated characters, so don’t worry if you can’t read Japanese.  

Depending on the design you choose, you’ll need to get your hands on Japanese ingredients such as nori (seaweed) and bonito flakes. But other than that, no special equipment is required. Just prepare simple tools such as toothpicks, kitchen scissors, and cling wrap. 

前編【鬼滅の刃】嘴平伊之助おにぎり(おにぎりアート)Part 1 Kimetsu no Yaiba
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前編【鬼滅の刃】嘴平伊之助おにぎり(おにぎりアート)Part 1 Kimetsu no Yaiba "Inosuke" riceball


Here’s Onigiri Gekijou’s most popular video to date, which features the process of making an Inosuke rice ball. 

Onigiri Gekijou makes character rice balls

With these handy onigiri-making techniques, the humble rice ball will now be a feast for your eyes and stomach. Be sure to check out Onigiri Gekijou on YouTube and Twitter for more wonderful creations. 

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Cover image adapted from: @mZHtgivNQr33RCL, @mZHtgivNQr33RCL and @mZHtgivNQr33RCL

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