The Difference: Onigiri vs Omusubi vs Nigirimeshi

In Japan, when a mother prepares a Bento boxed lunch that her kid eats at school, she sometimes makes rice balls, together with various side dishes. As you may know, the rice that has been packed together in a ball is generally called Onigiri and can also be bought at almost any convenience store in Japan in many varieties.

Actually, the rice ball Onigiri is also known as “Omusubi (おむすび)” or “Nigirimeshi (にぎりめし)”, but are there any differences in meaning between Onigiri, Omusubi, and Nigirimeshi? Today, I did some research online about that, so I shared the result.

Meaning: Onigiri vs Omusubi vs Nigirimeshi

Onigiri in Bento Box

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, while Omusubi tends to be often used in the western part of Japan.


Onigiri or Nigirimeshi


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 Nigirimeshi, so they both 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.


Nonetheless, according to the 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 actually have the same meaning of simply “rice ball”.

(Reference Page: 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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