Ekiben, the art of bento

Eki-bento-uri, literally “bento sold at the station”, the ekiben is a packed lunch served during a train ride. Carefully packed, the box contains several small regional dishes nicely arranged. The ekiben have the particularity of being delicious as well as cheap, which makes them quite popular in every region of Japan.

Tasting on-board

The ekiben is ideal for long journeys by train. Accompanied by disposable wooden chopsticks (waribashi), a paper towel, soy sauce and green tea, it is a balanced meal and is easy to enjoy.
Ekiben are sold in stations, on platforms and on board in long distance trains and Shinkansen.
Nowadays ekiben are also available in convenience stores.


An economical and delicious option

The Ekiben is an individual dish that usualy contains rice, vegetables and fish, pork or marinated chicken.
There are hundreds of different kinds of this packed lunch. They all offer quality regional products, cooked the same day, for a relatively low price : between 700 and 1200 yen.
The ekiben is generally eaten cold, but you can now find ekiben with a chemical tongue that enables it to be heated up in less than a minute.


A regional speciality

Each ekiben is specific to a train station. The lunch box itself is made out of plastic, wood or ceramic. It is covered with a Kakegami paper with traditional pattern and decorated with a ribbon.
The ekiben is an artistic composition in which colors and textures are as important as flavors.
The envelope, composition and ingredients of the ekiben perpetuate regional traditions. The ekiben invites us to taste local production.


The ekiben phenomenon

Ekiben appeared in Japan in the late XIX° century and spread in the 70-80’s. Since then the appearance of high-speed trains has slowed down its development. But ekiben are still very popular in Japan
The Japanese are really interested in cultural tourism and food tasting, therefore ekiben are now the subject of television programs, festivals and magazines.


The top 3 ekiben

Among the hundreds of varieties, there are three ekiben that are particularly popular :
1. Toge no kamameshi : an ekiben served in a ceramic dish consisiting of chicken, rice and vegetables (Yokokawa Station – Shin-Etsu Line)
2. Masu no sushi : Trout sushi wrapped in bamboo leaves and placed in a box made of cedar wood (Toyama Station – Hokuriku line)
3. Ika Meshi : Squid in sweet and sour sauce garnished with rice (Mori Station – Line Hakodate)


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