What is “Ekiben”, the Japanese culinary culture crucial to travel by train?

If you ever had a chance to visit Japan for sightseeing, and suppose you are about to get on a train to visit one of those provincial cities from Tokyo station, that is where we would like you to try “ekibens” that are sold inside Tokyo station and inside the train.

Ekibens are the obento lunch boxes sold at the train stations and inside the trains for travelers who take trains, and in this sense, it is not unique in Japan and similar lunch boxes are sold at the railways in other countries. The significant difference between the Japanese ekibens and the rest is the wide variety of such obento box. Although there is no exact data available, it is been said that variety amounts to as many as 2,000 varieties.

Such a great variety makes it extremely difficult for the travelers to choose one, and they may even face the risk of missing the train from choosing ekiben. For that in mind, let us introduce you three most recommended ekibens:


  1. “Yonezawa’s speciality – Gyudon Bento Gyuniku Do-mannaka”

This beef ekiben features a hearty portion of grounded beef seasoned with special sauce, and stewed beef on the center of “Domannaka,” locally harvested premium rice from Yamagata prefecture steamed to its perfection.This ekiben was awarded a grand prix prize from ekiben contest held by JR East, and it is one of the most popular ekiben sold at ekiben shop “Ekiben-ya Matsuri” located inside Tokyo station where over 170 varieties of ekibens from all over Japan are sold.


2. “Soba-ya no Tenmusu”

Tenmusu is a rice ball containing tempura.inside. The tenmusu we are introducing here has shrimp tempura inside. Although the size of each shrimp is rather small, the tenmusu has 5 pieces of shrimp tempura inside that it is sufficiently filling. The tender texture of shrimp tempura inside goes very well with rice. In addition, the salted kelp is not too salty that the overall taste is refined.


3,“Awabi & Uni Meshi (Abalone and Sea Urchin Rice)”

This ekiben can be purchased inside the Shinkansen trains on the Tohoku Shinkansen line and Ichinoseki Station.Its volume is substantial as 5 pieces of abalone are set on top of the rice which is lavishly decorated with sea urchin. The unique thing about this ekiben is that liver of abalone is contained. Liver of abalone is rarely used as an ingredient for ekiben, and this is a superb ekiben which we strongly recommend you to try.

We were able to introduce you only a few examples, so we would like to introduce you more ekiben at another opportuity.

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