Lawson, 7-Eleven and Family Mart go head-to-head in this konbini battle but there can only be one winner.

Japanese convenience stores sell a wide variety of rice balls, containing all sorts of fillings like salmon roe, Spam, and even full bentos.

For those times when you don’t want any filling at all, though, and don’t want to deal with the fuss of seaweed either, customers can rely on the salted rice ball, which contains nothing but — you guessed it — salt and rice.

Some might argue this is the hardest rice ball to do well, seeing as there are no additional flavours to hide behind, so a perfect salt-to-rice ratio and good quality ingredients is paramount. Our reporter Seiji Nakazawa was in the mood for a bit of plain rice after indulging over New Year, so he figured now was a great time to try out the salted rice balls from Japan’s top three convenience store chains.

▼ Left to right: Family Mart, Lawson, 7-Eleven

Seiji wanted to find out which of the three chains produced the best salted rice ball, and judging by price alone, he had high expectations for the 7-Eleven variety, which, at 108 yen (US$0.93), was priced slightly higher than the other two, both priced at 100 yen each.

In terms of packaging, the quality also put 7-Eleven at the top of the rice ball triangle, followed by Lawson and then Family Mart. Once he’d stripped them all of their packaging, though, their appearances looked, well…

▼ Left to right: Family Mart, Lawson, 7-Eleven

…exactly the same?

These triangular rice balls all looked pretty much identical. If he had to find a point of difference, he might say that the Family Mart rice ball looked a bit like an isosceles triangle, but really, if this were a blind-tasting, he’d probably think all three came from the same chain.

The only way to truly discover their differences would be through the tasting, so Seiji picked up the 7-Eleven rice ball and bit into it.

This was a great rice ball. The texture was light and airy, and the plumpness of each grain of rice was beautifully well retained, without any tight compaction, to create a fresh and satisfying mouthfeel. The salt was subtle but undeniably there, bringing a richness to the flavour. This would be a hard rice ball to beat.

▼ Next up, we have the salted rice ball from Lawson.

This was a lot tighter by comparison, creating a firm and chewy texture. Compared to 7-Eleven, this felt like a clump of rice, as he wasn’t able to enjoy the texture of individual grains, and it kind of reminded him of the rice balls his mother made for him in the mornings. To be honest, this onigiri felt like it’d just been hurriedly slapped together — sorry, mum!

▼ Finally, we come to the Family Mart rice ball. How would this one fare?

It was surprisingly good! The texture was similar to the rice ball from 7-Eleven, which respected the rice by giving it room to breathe, unlike the offering from Lawson. While Seiji felt like the Lawson rice ball flavour was lacking in flavour, this one was spot-on with the salty seasoning.

After a few more bites of each variety and some serious contemplation, Seiji deemed the winner of this salted rice ball showdown to be…


Seiji gave the top award to 7-Eleven for its light salty flavour and plump, moist grains of rice. However, those who want to buy lunch with only one hundred-yen coin should look no further than Lawson, because they’re a great option at that price point. That means Family Mart slots in at third place this time, but hey, at least they have the best beef stew.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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