Spring-colored Onigiri Rice Balls

Hanami, a picnic under the cherry blossom trees, is a famous Japanese tradition. The Japanese not only admire the flowers but also preserve them with salt to enjoy the taste!

Spring-colored Onigiri Rice Balls
Photographed by Masaya Suzuki

Recipe by
Sadaharu Nakajima



Rice & Noodles



Requires some preparation the day before.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 640 g cooked rice (warm)
  • Net 50–60 g green peas (removed from their pods)
  • [Happoji]

    • 700 ml dashi
    • 50 ml mirin
    • 50 ml usukuchi soy sauce
  • Approx. 1/4 broccoli (50 g)
  • 40 g takuan
  • 8 salt-preserved cherry blossom flowers (store-bought)
  • Salt



Perform these preparations the day before making onigiri rice balls: Make the [Happoji]. Place the ingredients in a pot, and heat over high heat until it just comes to a simmer, then remove from heat and let cool.


Cook the green peas in lightly salted water until tender, then transfer to cold water. Strain the peas, then place them in a container and pour in enough [Happoji] to cover the green peas. Place the container in the refrigerator.


Cook the broccoli in the same lightly salted water used for the green peas until slightly firmer than fully cooked through, then transfer to a strainer and let cool until safe to handle. Break into florets and place in a container, then pour in enough [Happoji] to cover. Cut the takuan into blocks 4 to 5-mm on a side. Place both the broccoli and the takuan in the refrigerator.



Briefly soak the salt-preserved cherry blossom flowers in water. When the flowers open and the salt has been washed off, remove from water. Remove the stems, leaving on the calyxes (the green "cup" at the base of the flower).


Strain the broccoli and roughly chop it. In a bowl, combine the rice, the strained green peas, and the takuan, and mix to integrate completely. Add the broccoli and briefly mix in.


Divide into 8 equal portions and form into onigiri rice balls of your preferred shape. Lightly press a cherry blossom flower into the surface of each one.


Happoji will keep for about 3–4 days refrigerated in summer, or about 1 week refrigerated during the rest of the year.