International terminal’s Konga serves up the taste of Bongo.

Onigiri, Japanese rice balls, are just about the perfect food for when you’re traveling and need a quick bite to eat. They’re filling without feeling heavy, nutritious and healthy but also comfortingly tasty.

So imagine our joy when we found out that there’s a new onigiri stand at Haneda, the closest airport to downtown Tokyo. Then when we went there to check it out, we found one more reason to get excited, even before we’d taken our first bite.

The shop is called Konga, and you can find it in the airport’s Edo Koji section, a recreation of the streets of samurai-era Tokyo located in the international-flight Terminal 3. Since this area is before the security checkpoint, it’s accessible to anyone. From the departure lobby on the third floor, head up the escalator to the fourth floor, and you’ll find Konga right at the part circled in the photo below.

It’s got a cool, classically styled storefront, but what really got us excited was a smaller sign explaining that Konga is a sister shop of Bongo, one of the most famous and beloved onigiri shops in all of Tokyo!

▼ Bongo

Bongo is located rather far off the beaten path in Tokyo’s Kita Otsuka neighborhood, but its onigiri are so renowned that there’s often a long line for them. Konga was established with direct help from Bongo, which has passed on its onigiri-making techniques to the Haneda shop so that more people can taste the results for themselves.

There’s a lot of variety on the menu of 20-plus options, with classics like slamon, negitoro (diced fatty tuna with green onion), and tori soboro (minced chicken) as well as more unique offerings like carbonara and cream cheese with mentaiko (spicy cod roe). You can also add a additional filling for an extra fee.

We decided to order two onigiri, starting with Konga’s biggest seller, the egg yolk and soy sauce onigiri (421 yen [US$3.05]), to which we added niku soboro (mincemeat) for another 140 yen. For our second, we went with a mentaiko cream cheese (421 yen), which is one of Konga’s most popular onigiri with female customers. We also tacked on a cup of tofu soup (194 yen) for good measure.

A sign at the counter says that it usually takes about 10 minutes from ordering to prepare your onigiri, but perhaps because e were there on a weekday afternoon when the airport wasn’t crowded, ours were ready after a five-minute wait. The freshly pressed onigiri looked delicious, and we started with the egg yolk, mincemeat, and soy sauce one.

It’s a nicely sized onigiri, but you’ll want to use a gentle touch picking it up, as Konga’s onigiri are softly pressed, so as not to smush the individual grains of rice.

That texture, though, means that once you take a bite, the grains gracefully separate as you chew. The mincemeat was delicious, with its sweet and spicy glaze not at all shy about making its presence felt and forming an excellent harmony with the rice. The egg yolk was pleasurably rich, yet also tied all the different flavors together in a gentle, balancing way.

Next up, the mentaiko cream cheese onigiri completely delivers on the promise of its name. The cheese was even creamier than we’d expected, and the sea-like saltiness of the cod roe coupled with its quick but sharp jab of spice made for an excellent combination.

And last, the tofu soup was like wrapping our palate and stomach in a warm blanket, ending the meal on a perfectly cozy note.

With a total bill of 1,176 yen, this isn’t the cheapest way to enjoy some onigiri at Haneda Airport, but we found it well worth it. Konga is helpfully open from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. too, so whether you’re an international traveler looking for one last taste of Japan before heading home, or a local resident headed somewhere overseas where you’ll be without onigiri options for a while, Konga makes for a great pre-flight meal.

Shop information
Konga (Haneda Terminal 3 branch) / こんが(羽田第3ターミナル店)
Address: Tokyo-to, Otaku-ku, Haneda Kuko 2-6-5, Haneda Airport International Flight Passenger Terminal 4th floor Okonomi-yokocho
住所:東京都大田区羽田空港2-6-5 羽田空港国際線旅客ターミナル 4F おこのみ横丁
Open 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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