Exciting range includes a new take on the rice burger, and it’s only available at one convenience store chain. 

Big-name convenience store chains like 7-Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart tend to dominate the market in Japan, but did you know there’s a convenience store run by East Japan Railway Company?

Called NewDays, where “every day is a new day that begins at the station”, these convenience stores aim to serve both the people of Japan and railway commuters, and right now they’re grabbing everyone’s attention with a new range of epic rice balls.

There are a total of seven rice balls in the new lineup, which has been named “Sugo Oni”, with “sugo” being the shortened form of “sugoi“, which means “great” or “wonderful“, and “Oni“, meaning demon. The rice balls are so-called because they’re said to be so big they’re half demon, half rice ball, and they even come with a new mascot character to promote them.

▼ Sugo Oni kun is half onigiri, half demon, and says “Oni Sugoi” a lot to express his surprise at everything, seeing as he’s just been born.

Customers who see the new Sugo Oni collection might very well let out a gasp of “Oni Sugoi” too, as the range aims to “change the common sense of convenience store rice balls” by delivering epic flavours and portion sizes fit to fill the hungry belly of a demon.

Kicking off the range are four types of onigiri, which became available from 1 June, with the remaining three scheduled to be released one at a time over the next three weeks. We stopped by to pick up the four debut onigiri as soon as they went on sale, and found the baby demon looking adorably surprised on all of them.

First up to the tasting plate, we have two onigiri packaged up in triangular packs and both priced at 300 yen (US$2.72) each: The W Ebi Ten (Double Prawn Tempura) and the Nama Ham (Dry-cured Ham).

The prawn tempura onigiri is seasoned with sauce and mayonnaise, and has two plump pieces of tempura prawn strapped into it with a strip of seaweed.

This seasoned rice is a great accompaniment to the fried prawns, and the fact that there were two pieces of prawn here upped its weight considerably, making it more like a bite-sized bento than a rice ball.

Next up, we have the Dry-cured Ham, which in this case was prosciutto. This fusion onigiri, priced at 300 yen, perfectly combines Japanese flavours with Western flavours, with the vinegared rice cutting through both the saltiness of the ham and the richness of the cheese to lighten the generous meal and leave you with a refreshing aftertaste.

Now we come to an actual bento-in-a-rice-ball, the Noriben Nigirimashita (300 yen), which translates to “noribento pressed into shape“. Noribento, or noriben as it’s commonly called, is a popular boxed meal containing rice topped with smoked bonito flakes and soy sauce and covered with a sheet of nori (roasted seaweed) as the main component, along with side dishes like chikuwa (fried fish cake) and fried white fish.

This Noriben rice ball allows you to eat the famous bento with one hand, as they’ve moulded a total of seven ingredients — chikuwa, fried white fish, tartar sauce, fried chicken, omelette, kinpira gobo (simmered burdock root), and bonito — into a nori-covered mound of rice for a meal that’s incredibly tasty and incredibly filling at the same time.

Finally, we have the rice ball we most want to recommend to our readers: The Teriyaki Rice Burger. At 350 yen, this is slightly more expensive than the other rice balls in the series, but it’s totally worth it as it’s the dream rice burger we’ve been waiting years for.

While fast food chains like Mos Burger and McDonald’s are famous for their “rice burgers” in Japan, the rice used in place of buns is always hard and densely packed together in order to sandwich the filling between them. It’s just not the same as munching into a fluffy serving of rice, which is what we’ve always wanted in our rice burgers, and soft rice is exactly what this rice ball delivers!

The shape of the rice buns here is excellent, and the teriyaki chicken stays firmly sandwiched between them. The plump rice, soft chicken, and soy and mayonnaise seasonings make this one incredibly tasty, and it’s also the perfect size to fill your stomach.

▼ When you’re hungry and pressed for time, this is your ideal option.

The only downside to this new series is the fact that it’s only available at NewDays stores in Nagano Prefecture and the Tokyo metropolitan area. Some products are also sold at NewDays Kiosk branches in these regions, with details available on the official site.

The half-demon half-onigiri series really does challenge “the common sense of convenience store rice balls”, as they’re considerably more exciting than the options you can find at the big three chains at the moment. And with Onigiri Day coming up on 18 June, there’s no better time to try the series, which by then will include a bacon-and-egg rice ball and a triple-scallop version too!

Photos ©SoraNews24
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