The マルトMaruto supermarket chain in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, is beaming with pride today, as they announced that one of their onigiri rice balls was honored with the Grand Prize in the onigiri category at the 2021 Bento and Prepared Meal Awards, a national award sponsored by the All-Japan Supermarket Association which annually reviews tens of thousands of entries.

The recipient of the Grand Prize was Maruto's 又兵衛しまほっけ Matabē shima-hokke, containing shima-hokke, or Atka mackerel [Pleurogrammus monopterygius (Pallas)].

According to Fukushima Minyu Shimbun, the shima-hokke is cured in brine, then 酒粕 sakekasu (sake lees), before being sun-dried. The sake lees are from the award-winning local Iwaki sake 又兵衛 Matabē, brewed by 四家酒造 Shike Brewery.

The seasoned mackerel is then enveloped in perfectly steamed grains of Premium Iwaki Laiki, a premium local Iwaki rice brand of the koshihikari varietal, lightly seasoned, then wrapped in a sheet of top-quality nori (laver) seaweed.

Each Maruto onigiri is hand made by staff who have been certified through personal training by 三浦洋介 Yōsuke Miura, owner of おにぎり「浅草宿六」 Onigiri Asakusa Yadoroku, an onigiri shop which has been listed in the Tokyo Michelin Guide three years in a row.

For the time being, the only way to enjoy Maruto's award-winner and the other tasty varieties of onigiri they sell, is to visit one of the following Maruto supermarkets locations in Iwaki City: 窪田 Kubota, 中岡 Nakaoka, 湯長谷 Yunagaya, 四倉 Yotsukura, 高坂 Takasaka, 岡小名 Okaona, 城東 Jōtō, 草野 Kusano, 君ケ塚Kimigatsuka

Considering the praise they've received, there may be a chance that these prized rice balls will eventually find their way beyond Iwaki City (Mr. Miura's shop in Asakusa being a logical candidate). But if you can't wait until then, the Yotsukura Maruto has the closest walking distance to the nearest station (2 minutes from JR Yotsukura Sta.), and you can get to it in a little over 2 hours from Ueno Station, Tokyo. If you intend making a day trip to Iwaki, you could stop by and pick up a few...

To find out more about Maruto's onigiri, visit their special page on their website here.

By - Ben K.