We settle a konbini debate once and for all!

Onigiri rice balls are a standard product at a lot of convenience stores throughout Japan, and while they’re good for filling your stomach on a budget, sometimes you might want to treat yourself to a rice ball that’s a little more luxurious.

In those cases, you’ll want to reach for a high-end rice ball instead. While these varieties cost a little higher than your regular offering, at 200-300 yen (US$1.41-$2.12), you’ll be able to spot them as the packaging looks significantly high-class, with a refined look that puts them in a different category to cheaper rice balls.

Recently, we’d heard that these rice balls are worth the extra investment, as they’re said to contain a lot of ingredients. We were keen to investigate this theory, so we purchased a high-class rice ball from each of the nation’s top convenience store chains and squared them up against some of the cheaper varieties.

So lets get right to it and find out how they stack up against each other, starting with the first face-off, between….

Lawson’s Grilled Salmon Skirt Steak (279 yen) vs. Lawson’s Aged sockeye salmon (167 yen).

As you can see, the more expensive rice ball on the left has a large image and text advertising the ingredients, while the cheaper variety is far more subdued in its appeal.

Taking them both out of their packaging, it was initially difficult to make any decision between the two…

▼…but after judging them from the side, we could see that the high-end rice ball was plumper, with a significantly greater height than the other.

Still, it was uncertain which one contained more ingredients, so we placed them on the scales to get a weight measurement.

The classier rice ball was about 30 grams (1 ounce) heavier.

That was a significant difference, so we pulled them apart in order to compare the weight of the fillings.

The classy onigiri contained a piece of salmon fillet, while the cheaper one contained salmon flakes. At a glance, it looked like the fillet would be heavier, but when we got them on the scales, the result was far more surprising than we thought, as it was nine grams heavier.

That worked out to be almost three times more salmon at less than twice the price, making the more expensive variety good value for money. Now we were keen to find out how the two other chains would fare against the mighty rice ball.

▼ Next up, we have Family Mart’s Broiled Silver Salmon Harami (258 yen) vs. Family Mart’s Salmon (150 yen).

This time, both onigiri appeared to be markedly more similar, with a more even amount of seaweed, but would there be a significant weight difference?

▼ Yep!

This time there was seven grams between them, but when we weighed up the fillings, the expensive variety contained 11 grams more!

This was an even greater difference than Lawson, so we were keen to find out how 7-Eleven would fare.

7-Eleven’s Charcoal-grilled Sockeye Salmon Fillet (248.40 yen) vs. 7-Eleven’s Red Salmon (189 yen)

This one was particularly surprising, as the more expensive variety didn’t even have a seaweed wrapping around it.

▼ Then, on the scales, there was hardly any difference in weight between them.

▼ After digging out the fillings, however…

▼ …we discovered am 11-gram difference between them!

In the end, the expensive rice ball with the most fillings came from Family Mart (middle, below), followed by 7-Eleven (right) and Lawson (left).

While they all tasted great, and are worth the money you pay for them, if you want to get the most value from your high-end rice balls, we recommend buying them from Family Mart.

So there you have it — the high-end rice balls really are filled with more ingredients than their cheaper brethren so you do get what your pay for. It just goes to show that it’s always worth comparing convenience store food when you can, because…how else would you know which chain sells the best salted onigiri rice balls?

Photos ©SoraNews24
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