Japanese students prepare onigiri for World Food Day campaign

Students in the Japanese program participated in making onigiri for Onigiri Action on Wednesday. Olivia Martin | Photo Editor

By Katelyn Patterson | Reporter

The Baylor Japanese program participated in Onigiri Action on Wednesday. Onigiri Action is an annual campaign that takes place Oct. 5 – Nov. 5, when taking a photo helps feed school children in need.

- cutline needed once story goes up - 
Olivia Martin | Photo Editor
- cutline needed once story goes up -
Olivia Martin | Photo Editor

Arlington senior Katlin Nguyen said each photo provides around five meals to children in food insecurity areas.

“We’re making onigiri right now, and it’s a Japanese rice ball,” Nguyen said. “Onigiri Action is an online program where people can come together and take pictures of the different Japanese rice balls that they’re making.”

Japanese lecturer Yuko Prefume said participating in Onigiri Action raises awareness for real-world issues and is a learning experience for students.

“Learning the language is not just about the language,” Prefume said. “Even through an activity like this, students can learn other important things, like social responsibility and social contributions.”

The students participating were in different groups that made their onigiri into various shapes, including bears and “Star Wars” themes.

Onigiri is traditional in Japanese culture. Waco sophomore Andy Arterburn said mothers would often make them for their children.

“They would pack them for their kid’s lunch, and they’re pretty easy to travel around with,” Arterburn said. “Sometimes it would be an easy breakfast food as well.”

Prefume explained it’s also comfort food.

“It’s a portable kind of snack,” Prefume said. “Most [Japanese people], I think we grew up eating onigiri. We all have a favorite filling.”

Onigiri is very versatile and has multiple options for fillings. The orthodox onigiri is rice only, but fillings can include grilled salmon, shrimp tempura, vegetables or tuna.

Japanese lecturer Yoshiko Fujii Gaines said she took onigiri with her every day when she was in graduate school.

“I never had time to go get lunch; it was a nice and easy option,” Gaines said. “You will see different fillings depending on the region you visit. That’s another fun thing about onigiri.”

Hajime Kumahata, Japanese lecturer and director of the Interactive Media and Language Center, said onigiri culture is widespread in Japan.

“If you go to a convenience store, you will see 20-30 different types of onigiri,” Kumahata said. “You may have some with fish, some with pickles and even fish eggs. There are all different types of onigiri that you can find and buy cheaply.”

Kumahata said part of the significance of onigiri is rice.

“Rice is a staple in our culture,” Kumahata said. “We always consider rice as the main dish, not the meat. Therefore, we are eating our main dish along with our sides in a portable way with onigiri. I think that’s a very significant part.”

Nguyen said the Japanese program is a unique experience, especially at Baylor.

“We have three main professors who I think are really cool,” Nguyen said. “They allow us to do cultural things like this. So, we are not only learning the language but also how people interact with each other and how there are certain customs and cultures we can follow.”