The Difference : Onigiri vs Omusubi vs Nigirimeshi

In Japan, when a mother prepares a bento for the lunch that her kid eats at school, she sometimes makes rice balls as a staple food, together with various side dishes.

Besides, if you go shopping at convenience stores in Japan, you will see a variety of packaged rice balls lined up on the shelf.

As you may know, those Japanese rice balls are generally called “Onigiri (おにぎり)”.

The Difference in Meaning of Onigiri, Omusubi, and Nigirimeshi

Onigiri in Bento Box

Actually, in addition to Onigiri, the rice ball has another 2 given names, that is, “Omusubi (おむすび)” and “Nigirimeshi (にぎりめし)”. But are there any differences in meaning between Onigiri, Omusubi, and Nigirimeshi?

When we Japanese mention the rice balls in daily life, we often use the word, Onigiri or Omusubi. Whether one says Onigiri or Omusubi depends on the person.

However, generally speaking, Onigiri is the word commonly used in the eastern part of Japan, whereas Omusubi tends to be used in the western part of Japan.



As for the shape, in general, no matter what shape is okay concerning Onigiri.

Actually, it is said that the word Onigiri is derived from the word Nigirimeshi, so both the words usually refer to the rice ball with a free shape that is covered with a dry sheet of seaweed laver “Nori (海苔) (”.


On the other hand, in many cases, Omusubi refers to the rice ball with a triangle shape that is covered partly with a Nori sheet.


Nevertheless, according to Onigiri Association of Japan and one of the most authoritative dictionaries of the Japanese language “Kojien (広辞苑)”, the 3 words, Onigiri, Omusubi, and Nigirimeshi have the same meaning, simply “rice balls”.

(Reference page of this article : Wikipedia おにぎり )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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