*This article was translated from the original Japanese published by Onigiri Society in Japan with their permission.
On a rainy day in April, I arrived at Waketokuyama in Nishiazabu where I was to conduct the very first Onigiri Society interview with the restaurant's head chef. I feel that the bad omen of rain always presents itself when I have something important to do.
Here is the restaurant I visited.
This first interview about onigiri making was with head chef, Hiromitsu Nozaki, and I was really nervous.
I don't know if Chef Nozaki noticed that I was nervous when he initiated the conversation, startling me by saying: "When you make onigiri, you should not squeeze it."
Chef Nozaki cooked rice in an earthen pot and as he did so, the sound of cooking rice was all we could hear. "blop bolop bolop..."
The chef is both very efficient and very kind. He applies this principle to both food and people.
"When you make onigiri, it is good to use just enough pressure so that the grains of rice are just touching each other. In this way, the rice will come apart in your mouth, in a good way. Then, you can feel a mouthful of happiness"
Got it! "Don't squeeze onigiri" means that we should be kind and treat them gently. Chef Nozaki handles the rice in a way to avoid even a single grain of rice being crushed.
I could also see just how happy he is when he eats onigiri and I realized that onigiri makes not only the person eating them happy, but anyone witnessing the onigiri being enjoyed can also feel a sense of pleasure. There is no dish like this.
Chef Hiromitsu Nozaki sums up his fondness for onigiri by writing:
"I love those platinum white rice balls, onigiri. I absolutely love them and everyone can eat them in peace with a smile on their face"
Thank you Chef Nozaki!
Here is a link to a video of Chef Nozaki discussing his memories and his passion for onigiri.