Japan’s Agricultural Ministry Sponsors Culinary Workshops in California and Oregon

Classes teach the art of making “Rice Ball Characters”

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) sponsored
a series of workshops this month for children and their parents on how
to make “rice ball characters.” The classes focused on the art of making
rice balls with a fun twist: the traditional Japanese dish is decorated
to form the faces of cartoon characters and other adorable creatures.

Rice balls—Onigiri in Japanese—are made out of white rice,
usually wrapped in a sheet of seaweed, and can often have fillings, such
as broiled salmon or other ingredients. Because they are eaten by hand
rather than by using chopsticks, they are a quick meal that can be eaten
on the go. To add to the fun and delight their children, many Japanese
mothers decorate their rice balls with edible ingredients to form the
faces of cute characters, a trend that has become increasingly popular
in recent years.

Now MAFF is seeking to popularize this fun food item among American
kids. It sponsored a series of workshops, many of which were held in and
around Los Angeles, for kids and their parents to learn how to make
their own rice ball characters.

The first of these events was held on Saturday, March 4, at the
Williams-Sonoma store in Beverly Hills. The instructor for the workshop
was Chef Andy Matsuda, founder of the Sushi Chef Institute in Torrance.
All the kids and their parents had fun. A twelve-year-old girl who
attended the class said that she had eaten sushi before, but never rice
balls. She added that making rice ball characters was “a lot of fun.”

“I love making a traditional Japanese dish fun and approachable for
children to cook and enjoy,” said Chef Matsuda.

Altogether nine workshops were held in California and Oregon, all of
which were free of charge. The event in Beverly Hills accommodated 20
kids plus 16 parents or guardians, and other workshops were
approximately the same size. Best of all, the kids were able to eat
their rice ball character creations afterwards. The classes were run by
Chef Matsuda and other instructors, including Debra Samuels, food writer
and author of My Japanese Table.

A slide show on rice ball characters can be viewed at the following link:

A song that introduces popular Japanese food items sung by Hatsune Miku
can be viewed at the following link:


MSA Partners
Chris Vickrey and Ben Wilcox