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Eki ben – Boxed Meal Bento at Prepare Stations in Japan

Uncover the pleasant world of eki ben, a beloved a part of prepare journey tradition in Japan. Ekiben, quick for “eki bento” (station bento), are boxed meals offered at prepare stations, showcasing regional specialties and flavors from throughout the nation. These handy and engaging meals have a wealthy historical past relationship again to the late nineteenth century and have advanced into culinary treasures that mirror native components, traditions, and craftsmanship.

What’s Eki ben?

different food in bento

Eki ben (駅弁) refers to a conventional Japanese boxed meal or bento that’s offered at prepare stations (eki 駅 means station and ben 弁 is brief for bento, which implies a meal in a field). These are particularly designed to be simply carried and eaten throughout prepare journeys. Eki ben are sometimes regional specialties, that includes native components and flavors. They’re handy for vacationers to buy earlier than boarding a prepare. It usually embody a wide range of meals reminiscent of rice, fish or meat, pickles, greens, and generally dessert—all neatly organized inside a disposable or reusable field.

Eki ben Origin

variety of food in eki ben bento

Numerous theories exist concerning the earliest sale of ekiben in Japan. On July 16, 1885 (Meiji 18), the inn “Shirakiya” was tasked by Japan Railways to promote two rice balls and pickled radish at Utsunomiya Station (now East Japan Railway Tohoku Foremost Line). This primary occasion is claimed to contain the rice balls being wrapped in tree bark. The day of this ekiben’s debut in Utsunomiya, July sixteenth, is called the “Ekiben Anniversary,” and lots of sources reference the Utsunomiya origin idea when discussing this event.

One other idea means that the primary modern-style ekiben, akin to what we all know right this moment. It was offered by Maneki Shokuhin at Himeji Station in 1890 (Meiji 23). In line with the Nobunkyo (Rural Tradition Affiliation), the ekiben offered at Himeji Station in 1889 (Meiji 22) is taken into account the origin of the basic Makunouchi-style ekiben. It was packaged in a folding field and set the usual for future ekiben types. This early Himeji ekiben featured a wide range of meals reminiscent of salt-grilled sea bream, date rolls, grilled kamaboko, dashimaki eggs, simmered soybean konbu, chestnut kinton, simmered burdock, frivolously sweetened lily root, barely simmered Japanese fuki, and pickles from Nara. Alongside white rice topped with pickles, pickled plums, and black sesame seeds.

The allure of eki ben

bento eki ben

Ekiben, a beloved lunch possibility for vacationers, affords a simple approach to savor native specialties whereas on the go. The point out of ekiben typically brings to thoughts the full of life ekiben competitions, the place scrumptious choices from throughout Japan are showcased, revealing distinctive flavors. Some ekiben distributors even provide freshly made samples by means of demonstration gross sales, including to their enchantment. Just lately, the recognition of ekiben has soared with the opening of enormous shops that inventory ekiben from all areas, making this culinary delight extra accessible and acquainted. Ekiben has turn into a success amongst overseas vacationers in search of to relish genuine Japanese flavors conveniently, indicating that its recognition is poised to develop even additional sooner or later.

Eki ben Suggestions

Take pleasure in it with all 5 senses

When consuming an ekiben, have interaction all of your senses for an entire expertise. Sharpen your style, odor, sight, listening to, and contact to completely immerse your self within the flavors and ambiance of the meal. Ekiben may even induce synesthesia, the place senses like style and odor intermingle, creating a novel sensory expertise that blends colours with flavors and smells.

Eat with the local weather

Ekiben displays the native local weather, encompassing components like geography, vegetation, and cultural traditions. Consuming an ekiben is not only about meals; it’s about experiencing the essence of a spot. Every chunk connects you to the native tradition and surroundings, permitting you to really feel the nuances of human emotion intertwined with the land’s temperament.

Take pleasure in digital actuality too

Ekiben’s attract lies in its means to evoke creativeness and transport you to a selected locale by means of meals. The components, cooking strategies, seasoning, and presentation all embody the traits of the area’s local weather and tradition. Ekiben allows a journey by means of meals, bringing the essence of a spot to you wherever you’re. Embrace this “digital actuality” expertise and savor the distinctive qualities of every ekiben.

Prepare journey must be the primary route

Whereas ekiben can evoke a way of digital journey, its true essence is tied to coach journeys. Buying an ekiben throughout a prepare journey, unwrapping it whereas admiring the passing surroundings, and savoring it towards the backdrop of the prepare window create an unforgettable expertise. Ekiben and prepare journey are inseparable, enhancing one another to create lasting recollections.

Take note of the hanging paper

The hanging paper wrapping an ekiben holds significance past aesthetics. It symbolizes the essence and goal of the ekiben. Pay attention to the hanging paper because it displays the care and keenness put into crafting the meal. The design and messages on the paper may even stimulate your urge for food, enhancing the general enjoyment of the ekiben.

Eki ben and Navy bento

eki ben boxed meal

Through the interval earlier than World Warfare II, the emergence of ekiben companies throughout Japan led to their use for prepare journey meals by Japanese army items throughout workouts and expeditions. Navy items would place last-minute orders often called “gun bento” alongside their routes to ekiben distributors, who needed to put together giant portions shortly whereas sustaining confidentiality about transportation plans. Regardless of the challenges, the demand for these army bentos throughout common workouts turned a major earnings supply for ekiben distributors, driving the event and recognition of ekiben. Through the warfare, meals shortages led to less complicated contents in army bentos. After the warfare, ekiben continued to be utilized by the Self-Protection Power for prepare transport, alongside garrison meal preparations for meals on the transfer, additional cementing the connection between ekiben and army transportation meals.

Eki ben FAQ

Are you able to eat ekiben on any prepare in Japan?

Usually, you possibly can get pleasure from ekiben on most trains in Japan, significantly on longer-distance routes and shinkansen (bullet trains). Many prepare stations have devoted seating areas or benches the place passengers can eat their ekiben earlier than boarding. Nonetheless, it’s vital to be thoughtful of fellow passengers and keep away from strong-smelling or messy meals out of respect for others sharing the prepare automobile.

How has the idea of ekiben advanced over time?

Through the years, ekiben has advanced from primary rice balls wrapped in tree bark to elaborate bento containers that includes a various vary of regional and seasonal components. This evolution displays the culinary creativity of Japan, with ekiben now thought-about an emblem of native satisfaction and tradition. Trendy ekiben are sometimes superbly introduced and might be discovered at prepare stations and specialty retailers, shops, and even on-line platforms.

Widespread Eki ben

Ebi Senryo Chirashi

The highest-ranked ekiben within the nationwide contest for really scrumptious ekiben is Ebisenryo Chirashi from Niigata Prefecture. If you open this ekiben, your consideration is drawn to the tamagoyaki filling the field. Beneath, a scrumptious assortment of eel, kohada (gizzard shad), squid, and shrimp awaits, complemented completely by the kelp unfold amongst the vinegared rice. The rice itself has a pleasant texture because of the inclusion of walnuts. General, Ebisenryo Chirashi stands out as an distinctive lunch field in each facet.


Masuno Sushi ranks because the second most scrumptious ekiben in Japan and is extremely wanted. This typically sells out quickly at competitions nationwide and on the Ekibenya Matsuri in Tokyo Station. It encompasses a delectable mixture of fatty trout sourced from Masuno Sushi, flavorful rice from Toyama Prefecture. With bamboo that enhances the aroma, leading to a fascinating taste profile that appeals to everybody.

Toge no Kamameshi

Toge no Kamameshi is an ekiben that has been beloved for its scrumptious style ever since its creation in 1958. Every fastidiously crafted topping will soothe your journey fatigue with each chunk. Masu. Additionally, one of many causes for its recognition is that it makes use of Mashiko pottery pots.

Kiyoken Shumai bento

The Kiyoken Shumai bento is a pleasant meal that includes conventional shumai and number of tasty aspect dishes like tuna teriyaki, fried hen, tamagoyaki, and kamaboko. The bento field is lined with wooden, which helps soak up extra moisture from the rice to stop it from changing into sticky. If you open the lid, a pleasing pine scent provides to the expertise. This enhances the general enjoyment of this flavorful and well-prepared meal.

The place to purchase Eki ben?

JR East Cross Station “Hen Bento”

eki ben from JR East Cross Station “Chicken Bento”

An extended-selling ekiben that was launched together with the opening of the Shinkansen in 1963. This can have a good time its sixtieth anniversary in 2024. The mix of tomato-flavored rice and fried hen is beloved by individuals of all ages. The rice is topped with scrambled eggs and dried tomatoes pickled in oil.

Shinkiniya “Beef Domanchu”

eki ben from Shinkiniya “Beef Domanchu”

A well-known ekiben from Yonezawa Metropolis, Yamagata Prefecture. Yamagata Prefecture-produced rice “Domannaka” is cooked till fluffy. Topped with candy and spicy seasoned minced beef and simmered beef slowly simmered in a secret sauce. All aspect dishes reminiscent of boiled candy potatoes, herring kombu rolls, and tamagoyaki are all handmade.

Shibata Sanshinken “Ebi Senryo Chirashi”

eki ben from Shibata Sanshinken “Ebi Senryo Chirashi”

If you open the lid, thick fried eggs are unfold far and wide, making an amazing impression! Hidden beneath are kabayaki eel, thinly sliced ​​yellowfin tuna, in a single day dried salt squid, and steamed shrimp. It lets you get pleasure from a wide range of flavors and textures in each chunk. The vinegared rice made with rice produced in Niigata can also be scrumptious, making an ideal approach to benefit from the style of Niigata.


eki ben on red bento box

Subsequent time you journey to Japan, don’t miss the chance to attempt ekiben—a pleasant approach to expertise native flavors whereas on the transfer. Whether or not you’re on a bustling prepare journey or exploring a brand new vacation spot, ekiben affords a handy and scrumptious style of regional specialties. From sushi and tempura to grilled meats and seasonal treats, there’s an ekiben to swimsuit each palate. Seize one at a prepare station or specialty store and savor the distinctive culinary traditions of Japan in your travels.

If you wish to try to style a few of the Japanese dishes, beneath are our suggestions!

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