Something to look forward to on long train trips

31 May, 2012 by

Ekiben is a portmanteau of eki, meaning station and bento. Literally, it’s the boxed lunches that can be found for sale at major train stations, especially those serving shinkansen bullet trains throughout Japan. A delicious ekiben can make a long journey by train all the more bearable, or even something to look forward to.

Ekiben shops can be found both in main stations and sometimes on the tracks itself. Most prefer to grab their meal before boarding but if you’re quick, you might be able to grab your ekiben while your train makes a temporary stop at a station. Some trains sell their own boxed lunches onboard too.

Shako Meshi Ekiben from Tokyo Station.

Shrimp rice and noodles.

Major shinkansen stations can have dozens of different ekiben shops. The meals sold are generally local specialities and ekiben make an effort to highlight the area’s cuisine or produce. For example, Yan found this odd ekiben from Osaka that comes with sekihan (red rice) and takoyaki. Not all ekiben serve rice, you’ll find noodle and sandwich ekiben too.

Takoyaki Ekiben from Osaka Station.

Literally takoyaki, and rice.

Prices of ekiben can vary greatly, and are about the equivalent in price to eating out (i.e. anywhere from 600 to more than 1,500 yen). Famous, extravagant sets can set you back thousands of yen. But such gourmet meals are better left to the aficionados.

Choosing an ekiben can be confusing, with the many options to choose from. The elaborate, graphic packaging, and food displays make it all the more difficult a decision. Apparently, there are ekiben-otaku, who collect the wrappers from ekiben.

Have you tried any ekiben? If so, what was your experience like? Share it with us below.

Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.

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Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.