Sunday’s onigiri contest: The cutest rice you can imagine


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There was quite a bit of attrition at Sunday’s onigiri contest, presented at the Japanese America National Museum as part of the daylong Oshogatsu Festival. More than 300 people signed up to participate, but in the end, there were only 80-some official entries. The rest had been eaten before they could get to the judge’s table. Still, the ones that did survive were about as cute as you could imagine.

Onigiri is a Japanese cake, made out of rice. Traditional shapes are triangles and balls, but onigiri can be pressed into many different shapes and decorated with all kinds of materials. At Sunday’s competition there were onigiri shaped like snowmen, houseflies, Hello Kitty (of course) and even one of a magician’s assistant sawed in half (at least that’s what the judges agreed it must have been).


The winner of the kid’s most original onigiri was Sarah Tominaga, the cutest were Sam and Jordan Diem, and the happiest was Max Kuo. In the adult category, the most humorous was won by Randall Bloomberg, the most original was by Jeff Prosser and the coolest was by Edgar Sanchez.

The competition was produced by Common Grains, a local organization that is trying ‘through grains to find a common ground in humanity,’ according to organizer Sonoko Sakai, a frequent writer for the Los Angeles Times Food section.


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--Russ Parsons

Photos by Russ Parsons/Los Angeles Times