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March 17, 2017 16:47 UTC

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.

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Children and their rice ball characters (Photo: Business Wire)

Children and their rice ball characters (Photo: Business Wire)

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

Source: Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

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Children and their rice ball characters (Photo: Business Wire)

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