There are a large variety of Ekiben available all around Japan.
When you think of a trip on a train, you might think of the scenery from the train windows, chatting with friends, and the time you spend in general as a fun experience. In addition to this, “Ekiben”, or Obento (packed lunch) are sold at the train station as well as in the train itself and is part of this enjoyable experience.
It is said that the Ekiben started on August 16th, 1885 when the “Riceball Bento” started being sold in Utsunomiya Station in Tochigi Prefecture. Many stations sell them now and there are a lot of unique Ekiben around Japan. For example, there is a Ekiben called “Beef Right in the Middle,” sold in Yonezawa Station in Yamagata Prefecture; it is a bed of rice made in Yamagata Prefecture, which is delicious even after it’s cooled down, topped with the famous Yonezawa Beef simmered in a secret sauce. Another favorite is “Squid Rice,” which uses seafood from Hokkaido.
Because Ekiben are often made with specialties of the local area, it is a popular way to enjoy the trip unique to those areas. Aside from variety, Ekiben also presents the delicateness and beauty of Japanese cuisine. The moment you open the lid you’ll see that the food is arranged so beautifully that one might think it’s a waste to eat. You can feel the seasonal influence from Ekiben because they use seasonal ingredients. Ekiben is not just lunch, but also a meal you can enjoy through sight and taste.
Ekiben is also sold in special exhibition halls at some department stores and at events that sell it from famous train stations around Japan. The Ekiben at these such events is so popular, that it usually sells out within minutes.
Ekiben is vital to the experience in bullet trains, sleeper trains, and in tourist trains. Even people riding the bullet train for business purposes eat Ekiben with a beer in hand.
Enjoy your next trip on the train with local cuisine unique to those areas with Ekiben.