Let me take you back to the summer of 2015. Six months ago the world was a much sadder place. Well, that might not actually be true. But six months ago the world had yet to witness the Japanese meme known as Rice Ball Babies. Living in Tokyo, I saw my Twitter feed abuzz with all of my friends smushing their kids’ faces to look like rice balls. Now, despite it almost being a new year, Rice Ball Babies continues to grow in popularity.

Original Rice Ball

The trend goes back to the efforts of Masahiro Ehara, a Japanese comedian. He posted pictures of himself squishing his children’s faces into the shape of a rice ball and soon others couldn’t get enough of the hilarity. The secret, as you will see from the images included with this post, is all about getting the cheeks just right. While some believe that the adorable, pudgy faces look more like a blobfish than a culinary staple of Japan, that hasn’t stopped the idea from raking up hundreds of thousands of tweets.

Rice Ball Baby

Blob Fish

While the trend has been mostly contained to Japan, with a few copycats popping up in South Korea and Taiwan, the facial manipulation did not stop with babies. Soon, people were making their own faces look like rice balls. Then they were reaching out to friends and making their faces look like rice balls. One of those famous Japanese game shows, the kind that has brought us the handjob karaoke game hour, even did a special in which participants competed against one another to perfect the rice ball baby shape. Enough people tuned in for the first competition that another episode has been scheduled for the end of the month.

Rice Ball Baby

Rice Ball Baby Game Show

The latest twist has been to replace adorable baby faces with the faces of pets. In a country where Google Street View for cats is a real thing, it was only a matter of time before we got our feline friends involved. Due to the popularity of this trend, Masahiro Ehara had to create a public service campaign to remind people that they shouldn’t injure their children, or their pets, when attempting to make rice ball babies. Sadly, the public service campaign is too late for at least two children whose parents were arrested on suspicion of child endangerment.

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Rice Ball Baby public service announcement poster

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Steve Pame

Steve Pame

A part-time graduate student and high school teacher, Steve enjoys just about anything that makes him forget all the student loans he'll never be able to pay back. He enjoys visiting his extended family, spread throughout the world, whenever he has a chance.