It’s only 9 a.m. on a sunny morning at the end of August, and chefs Yoshihiro Narisawa and Hisato Hamada have already been making onigiri rice balls for hours. The final batches are being made in a pair of twin metal kamado (traditional Japanese stoves) set up outside of restaurant Narisawa in Tokyo’s Aoyama neighborhood. Once finished, they will be delivered to medical workers around the city before lunchtime.
Joined by a team of roughly 20 volunteers that included local doctors as well as sake and shōchū (distilled Japanese spirit) makers from around Japan, the duo had prepared 600 rice balls earlier in the day as part of their Onigiri for Love charity project.
Narisawa and Hamada launched the volunteer campaign in late February as a way to support producers in rural areas that are feeling the pinch from pandemic-induced declines in the tourism and hospitality sectors.