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How do you open a Japanese rice ball? Former Olympian shares struggle with packaging

Even the most dexterous athletes have trouble opening onigiri.
“I ate a rice ball before the broadcast," tweeted former Olympian Anastasia Bucsis. "Thanks again to the wonderful people in Japan."
“I ate a rice ball before the broadcast," tweeted former Olympian Anastasia Bucsis. "Thanks again to the wonderful people in Japan."@anastasure/Twitter
/ Source: TODAY

Anastasia Bucsis may be a two-time Olympian, but there's one physical feat that didn't come easily to her: the art of opening a Japanese rice ball (aka onigiri).

The former Olympian-turned-reporter is currently in Tokyo covering the summer games for Canadian network CBC, but it's her behind-the-scenes videos about her relatable food journey that have captured people's attention.

Earlier this week, the 32-year-old filmed herself as she attempted to open a tuna-mayonnaise onigiri from a local 7-Eleven, and admitted that she had no clue how to unravel the tricky packaging.

"Please tell me what I'm doing wrong," she pleads with her followers in the video posted to Twitter. "I'm a hot mess. Please help."

The former speed skater begins by following the directions on the packaging and pulls down the top pull tab. Next, she pulls the side packaging and the snack starts to come out.

"Do I eat it just like this or do I open it up?" she asks.

If you've ever sunk your teeth into one of these delicious snacks, you know opening them can be a bit difficult since the rice filling is wrapped in crispy seaweed then an air-tight layer of plastic that keeps it nice and fresh.

The former Olympian's Twitter followers were thoroughly entertained by the video and could relate to how frustrating the packaging can be.

Several social media users encouraged Bucsis by telling her that even Japanese people find the packaging to be quite tricky at times.

One Twitter user even drew the reporter a handy instructional diagram.

A few days later, Bucsis updated her followers on her rice ball journey and it looks like she took their advice to heart. As she opens the rice ball this time around, she looks like a lot more skilled and comfortable while handling the packaging, ending the video by calling the snack "oishii" (delicious).

The folks at 7-Eleven Japan must have heard about the sports reporter's struggle because the following day, they shared their own video tutorial showing the proper way to open a rice ball "for the customers who are visiting Japan from overseas."

In summary, you pull the first tab, pull it down, unraveling the strip connected to it, ripping through the back of the package, until it is removed completely, then grab hold of the seaweed in the middle of the onigiri (don't let go!) and carefully pull tab two and three on the sides, removing the plastic barrier between the rice and seaweed. Fold your seaweed back around around the rice to get that triangle shape and enjoy!

Now that she's mastered the art of opening onigiri, Bucsis seems determined to enjoy them as much as she can while she's in Japan. On Thursday, she shared a photo of herself holding a rice ball while giving the peace sign.

“I ate a rice ball before the broadcast. Thanks again to the wonderful people in Japan,” she wrote in Japanese in the caption.

Bucsis told TODAY Food she's visited Japan a few times but had forgotten how tricky opening onigiri can be. Luckily, the global social media community was happy to help her out.

"I've gotten so many messages. I think my personal favorite has been the messages along the lines of 'You've united the country of Japan with this video, especially after a tough time with the pandemic,'" she wrote in an email.

The reporter also feels grateful that she's received such a warm welcome over in Tokyo.

"The outpouring of love and support from the people of Japan has been unbelievable," she said. "They have been so supportive, accommodating and genuinely happy to see visitors engage with the culture."

Bucsis isn't the only one letting us all in on her culinary journey in Japan. Several current Olympians have also been taking to social media to give their followers an inside look at the food in the Olympic village dining halls. The all-around winner doesn't seem to be onigiri, though — it's the gyoza.