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Why are Idols Making Rice Balls? A Place of Dreams and Relaxation “Girls Omusubi Café”

なぜアイドルたちはおむすびを握るのかーー夢と癒しの空間、「ガールズお むすびカフェ」に行ってみたーー
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Why are Idols Making Rice Balls?  A Place of Dreams and Relaxation “Girls Omusubi Café”
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Anyone born and raised in Japan has eaten Omusubi (rice ball). So it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the rice ball is has strong roots in Japanese culture. If you look up its history, you’ll see that the rice ball was first appeared on Japanese tables around the eighth century, during the Heian Period. Now they’re a staple all over Japan, and you can find them displayed at their own section in any convenience store with dozens of different flavors to choose from. In other words, Japanese people have loved rice balls for over 1,000 years.

日本に生まれ育った人でおむすびを食べたことがない人はいない。そう言っても過言ではないくらい、おむすびは日本文化に強く根付いた食べ物だ。ちょっと調べてみると、初めておむすびが日本の食卓に並んだのは8世紀、平安時代のことだそう。今では、コンビニの専用コーナーには何十種類というおむすびが整列していて、すっかり日本社会の日常風景の一部となっている。つまり、1000年以上もの間ずっと、おむすびは日本人に愛されてきているのだ。

One reason rice balls have been able to stand the test of time is because they’re a food that represents the warmth of a happy home life. The ones made by a mother, for example. Of course, not only women are responsible for making rice balls, but for many Japanese they grew up with rice balls their mothers made and packed into their bags for school, field trips, and sports days. They’re the best when you’re feeling a little hungry. For me, trying to guess what kind of flavor my mom had given me each day was a secret past time of mine. There’s a phrase in Japanese called ofukuro no aji (the taste of a home-cooked meal), and anytime I eat a rice ball, I can taste a hint of the care put into it and nostalgia with each bite.

おむすびが時を越えて好まれてきた、そのわけの一つは、それが家庭のあたたかさを象徴する食べ物だからだ。例えば、お母さんが握るおむすび。もちろん、おむすびを握るのは女性だけの役目っていうわけじゃないけれど、きっと多くの日本人は小さい頃からお母さんの握ったおむすびを鞄に入れて、学校へ、遠足へ、部活動へ行っていたことだろう。お腹がぺこぺこになって食べるおむすびは何よりも美味しい。私じしん、今日のおむすび何味だろうーって考えながら食べるのが、子供の頃の密かな楽しみだった。日本語には「おふくろの味」という言葉があるけれど、おむすびはいつ食べても、そういった優しくも、懐かしい味を思い出させてくれるのだ。

A place where active young idols and talents will make those kinds of rice balls for you, called Girls’s Omusubi (Rice Ball) Café, or “Garumusu” for short, opened up in Akihabara on April 21st! If you check out the café’s web site, it says, “Girls aiming to be top talents in Japan will lovingly make you rice balls, an important part of Japanese dining, full of their dreams, as well as love and comfort.” Like with the birth of with maid cafes and other Japanese subcultures that create a virtual space, it left me thinking, just exactly what kind of place this “girls rice ball” café that mixes both Japanese food and idol culture?!

そんなおむすびを、なんと現役のアイドルやタレントの卵たちが握ってくれるお店、「ガールズおむすびカフェ」(略して「ガルむす」)が秋葉原に今年の4月21日にオープンした! お店のホームページを見てみると、「日本の「食」文化の一つ「おむすび」を一流タレントを目指す女の子が愛情を込めて握りながら、皆様に一時の【夢】と【愛】と【癒し】をお届けします。」とある。例えば、メイド喫茶などが日本のサブカルチャーが産んだ、ひとつのバーチャルな空間だとするなら、日本の食文化の代表であるおむすびとアイドル文化が結びついたお店「ガルむす」は一体どんな空間なのだろう!? 

The café is located on the seventh floor of a suspicious building housing multiple tenants. One floor had a maid reflexology salon. (A place where maids will clean out your ears with an ear pick or allow you to sleep on their laps.) My heart started to beat a little faster as rode the elevator up to the “rice ball girls”. It was a simple café with no kind of flashy décor surrounding it, which made it surprisingly easy to enter.

お店があるのは少し怪しげな雑居ビルの7階。各階にはメイドリフレ(メイドの女の子が耳かきや膝枕をしてくれるお店)などが入っている。ちょっとドキドキしながらエレベーターに乗ると、「ガルむす」に到着。お店は派手な装飾などなく、意外とシンプルな作りで、入りやすい雰囲気だ。

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When I stepped inside I was greeted with the smell of freshly cooked rice and a group of cute girls. The café system was easy. You buy a ticket from the vending machine, choosing the girl you’d like to make your rice ball. After that, you can go up to the girl you picked and she’ll chat with you as she makes your rice ball. This rice balls I had were made by “Girls Omusubi”’s Yoshino Shiki (15) and Erika Suzuki (16).

さて、ドアを開けると炊き上がったご飯のふんわりとした良い匂いと共に、かわいい女の子たちが出迎えてくれる。お店のシステムはいたって簡単。券売機でおむすびを握って欲しい女の子の番号の食券を買い、カウンターへ。すると、指名した女の子が目の前で、会話をしながら作ってくれる。今回、おむすびを握ってくれた「おむすびガール」は志岐よしのちゃん(15歳)と鈴木えりかちゃん(16歳)。girls-omusubi-cafe-akihabara-05

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Yoshino told me she had just moved to Tokyo from Saga prefecture this spring. She said in the future she wanted to be a model just like Tina Tamashiro. While were talked about her hobbies, anime and manga, she presented me with a beautiful looking triangular rice ball. Considering Yoshino had never made a one until she started working at “Girls Omusubi”, it was amazing how well she was doing talking with the customers and making rice balls in as little as a month. Mine was had salty kelp inside, tasted like the ones I’d eaten growing up; it was very delicious!

よしのちゃんは、今年の春に佐賀県から上京して来たばかりだという。将来的には玉城ティナさんのようなモデルになりたいと語った。よしのちゃんの趣味のアニメや漫画の話をしているうちに、綺麗な三角形のおむすびが完成。「ガルむす」で働くまでおむすびを握ったことが無かったというよしのちゃんだけど、この一ヶ月でお客さんとのトーク術とおむすびの握り方がとても上達したという。具の塩昆布が効いて、昔食べてた懐かしいあの味が蘇り、とっても美味しい!

Yoshino chan

Yoshino chan

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Next, Erika served me a salmon rice ball. Two years ago she became a member of the idol group PPP! PiXiON, and she’s a very popular a “Girls Omusubi”. In between lessons and concerts she comes to the café to make rice balls. When I asked her who her inspiration was, she told me. “Actually I’ve always looked up to Rena Nonen, and want to be not only an idol, but an actress, too. Of course I enjoy working as an idol now, but someday I’d love to appear in dramas.” This is probably the only café in Japan where you get a chance to hear what idols are really thinking!

続いて、今度はえりかちゃんが鮭おむすびを握ってくれた。えりかちゃんは、2年前からすでにアイドルグループPPP! PiXiONのメンバーとしても活躍している「ガルむす」でも人気の女の子。レッスンやライブの合間に「ガルむす」に来ておむすびを握っているという。えりかちゃんに、目標とする人物を聞いてみると、「実は、私、能年玲奈ちゃんに憧れてて、アイドルだけじゃなくて女優業もやってみたいんです。もちろん今やってるアイドルのお仕事も楽しいけど、将来はドラマとかにも出てみたいな」と。おむすびを握るアイドルの本音を聞けるなんて、広い日本でもきっとこのお店だけだ!

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Erika chan

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Since there were many customers and older fans of PPP! PiXiON there, it was a great day to visit and ask the other regulars what they found most charming about “rice ball girls”. They told me that since idol culture was developed in Japan, there have been an infinite number of idol groups. But so far the only way to meet them has been at concerts. At the end of the concert there was nothing they could do but wait until the next event. But at “Girls Omusubi”, they can meet them and talk with them anytime. They happily told me that the idea of being able to eat rice balls made by their favorite idols still doesn’t seem real!

お店のお客さんもPPP! PiXiONの昔からのファンの人が多いようで、ちょうどこの日も来店してた常連さんに「ガルむす」の魅力を聞いてみた。日本でアイドル文化が発達し、現在、数え切れないくらいのアイドルグループがいる。でも、彼女たちに会えるのはいつもライブ会場だけ。ライブが終わってしまえば次のイベントまで会う事ができない。けれども、「ガルむす」があれば、いつでもアイドルと会って話すことができる。しかも自分の推しの女の子のおむすびが食べれるなんてこれまで想像もしてなかった!と嬉しそうに話してくれた。

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I wrote before about how the rice ball is a Japanese traditional food that has been around for over 1,000 years. However recently I’ve often heard that the number of younger adults who don’t have any chances to eat handmade rice balls has increased. Meanwhile “Girls Omusubi” makes rice balls while they work as idols , and strive to add something new to idol culture. As a result, towards idols worship and towards home cooking miraculously come together to create that can’t be found anywhere else but at this café. And then starting here, these girls could become the next faces of Japan, someday debuting as huge idols and talents!

おむすびが1000年以上の歴史を持つ日本伝統の料理だと、さっき私は言った。しかし、近年、他人の握ったおむすびを食べられない若者が急増しているという話をよく聞く。そんななかで「ガルむす」は、アイドルという〈ステージ上の偶像〉と、おむすびという〈家庭の味〉を結びつけて、アイドル文化における新しい〈交流の場〉を作ることに挑戦している。その結果、アイドルへの〈崇拝〉と、家庭料理への〈信頼・安心〉が奇跡的に融合し、それによってこれまでに無い〈夢と癒しの空間〉がここに出現しているのだ。そして、いつの日か、ここから日本を代表するような大きなアイドルやタレントが誕生する日も来るかもしれない! 

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By the way, it seems like “Girls Omusubi” hasn’t had any foreign visitors yet (*as of May 18th, 2015, the date we visited here). Yoshino and Erika said they’d like to try talking to customers who are foreigners, too! So if you’re interested, please go visit!
ちなみにまだ「ガルむす」に外国からのお客さんは来たことがないとのこと(*取材日の5/18現在)。よしのちゃんも、えりかちゃんも外国のお客さんとお話ししてみたい!と言っていたので、興味がある人はぜひ訪れてみてください!

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Related links
Girls Omsubi Cafe website : http://www.garumusu.jp/index.html
Girls Omusubi Cafe Twitter : https://twitter.com/girlsomusubi
PPP! PiXiON official site : http://ppp-pixion.jp/
Yoshino Shiki Twitter : https://twitter.com/0922_yo
Erika Suzuki Twitter : https://twitter.com/erika_pixion

Photos by kobadog
Translated by Jamie Koide

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Information

Girls Omusubi Cafe
Address : Soto-Kanda 3-15-7 7F, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Nearest Station : Akihabara
TEL : 070-6442-3145
URL : http://www.garumusu.jp/index.html

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Author
KAI NAGASE
KAI NAGASE

Writer, Book Reviewer. Having the degree of MA. (Japanese Literature) I love Japanese Girl's Popular Music, such as YUKI, Chara, Makoto Kawamoto, and Seiko Oomori.

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