Omusubi Marusankaku – Simplicity at its best

By Ben Davis


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Some mornings call for nothing more than simplicity. And despite the unusually quiet city streets that often greet those in search of a morning meal, there is hope to found down some of the lesser trodden paths of the inner city. Hidden somewhat surprisingly in Jingumae, Omusubi Marusankaku is a cosy destination that specialises in omusubi, or traditional Japanese rice balls. The shop celebrates the essence of this simple and traditional snack by following a simple formula of selecting the best seasonal produce and preparing it in a way that enhances freshness and flavour.

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Barely a few dozen footsteps off the Gaien Nishi-Dori sidewalk and not far from Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Omusubi Marusankaku is hidden down a narrow laneway, where you’ll often be greeted by a hanging blackboard and woven bamboo trays of sliced vegetables drying in the sun. Focusing on breakfast, lunch and order-made bento, the comfortable shop is the creation of Chieko Okura, a trained colourist – an urban and architectural colour designer – who was first drawn to the magic of omusubi while holding hands-on workshops with children and adults. She went on to pursue other omusubi-related projects and is now involved in various endeavours that range from food education to environmental design and cultural activation.

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The shop features half a dozen or so seats arranged along the counter, meaning that you’re never far from the making of the meals in the open kitchen. Made-to-order omusubi means that rice is taken from one of the stovetop donabe and mixed with ingredients such as dried seaweed and dill, before a firm set of hands presses a generously-sized ball or triangle. Served a la carte or paired with pickles, soup and sides, the nourishing omusubi carry satisfying subtle flavours, whether it be umeboshi, fresh ginger, salted salmon roe, or Chieko’s original pairing of dried tomato and herb.

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Beneath the warmth and attention that goes into each handmade creation, there is a deep appreciation for quality produce and the domestic farmers who dedicate long days and nights to nurturing its creation. Chieko happily shares their stories with visiting customers, in turn passing their appreciation back to the producers themselves – an important link in a network of people connected by, and passionate about, quality seasonal food. And within the subtleties of the perfectly-balanced omusubi, the vibrant flavours of the colourful sides and the sweetness of the near-luminous fruit syrups, there’s a sense of sanctuary to be found in this tiny omusubi shop.

<Information>
-Omusubi Marusankaku
-Where: 3-1-25 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
-When: Tue-Fri 9:30-11:00, 11:30-15:00 (occasionally open Sat 11:00-16:00)
-Website: http://omusubi-garden.com/omusubi-garden/omusubi_garden.html


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CULTURE FOOD TOKYO YAKUSHIMA

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About Columnist

Ben Davis
Editor of Thousands Tokyo

Ben is an editor, consultant and photographer who has been based in Tokyo since 2010. Following a stint with local farmers in the Japanese countryside, he now works as Editor of Thousands Tokyo, which sees him happily spend most days (and nights) exploring the world’s biggest city from the ground up.