Ekiben (駅弁) is the abbreviation of Eki/駅 for Station and Bento/弁当 for packed lunch.
Ekiben is almost as old as railroads and railways in Japan adn have been , wirh high and lows, a feature at important stations all over the country.
Ekiben being sold to travelers in 1902!
The very first ekiben was officially sold (actually two kinds of them) at Utusnomiya Station in Tochigi Prefecture in 1885, although food had been allowed to be sold at stations and to trains since 1877 in Kobe and Osaka Cities.
Traditional ekiben booth inside Ofuna Station.
There is even a complete (in Japanese only) Ekiben Homepage in this country!
These days they are sold either at shops and stands located the entrance to the tracks, inside station markets or at stands on the very rail platforms although this is far from being a general rule. It is always a better idea to buy them before going through the gate to the platforms.
Shizuoka Prefecture has the third largest number of bentos on record (161 in 2015) after Tokyo and Kanagawa Perefecture as it has the largest number of Shinkansen/bullet train stations (6) in Japan and t takes no less than 3 hours to cross Shizuoka Prefecture from Atamait o Shinjohara, notwithstanding the the lines crisscrossing the rest of the Prefecture, especially Izu Peninsula!
Hamamatsu Mikkabi Beef Ekiben in KakegawaStation!
Like the rest of Japan, this is the best way for travelers and tourists to discover the local gastronomy, be that of a Prefecture, region city or even village!
Ekiben stand in front of the entrance gate in Numazu City!
For example Numazu City if famous for its harbor and fish but there is most consistent fare nearby!
Rare Ashitaka Beef Ekiben!
Although Mishima City is away from the sea it does offer a tasty Chirashi Zushi (Decoration Sushi) at its station!
Some ekiben come in truly cute wrappings for collectors as the above “Kazutoyo Ekiben” sold at Kakegawa Station!
And the contents are as beautiful!
Some stations like Shizuoka City also have limited seasonal ekiben like this Winter “Chisen Fuyu Ekiben”!
I savored inside the train to Tokyo!
Even the Shizuoka Prefecture Tourist and Agricultural department promote themselves through ekiben like this “fuji no Kuni/Mount Fuji Land” in Shin Fuji Station!
Mount Fuji-shaped Ekiben!
Broiled eels are a specialty of Shizuoka Prefecture!
Don’t forget some of the labels, wrappings and boxes can easily become collector’s items such as the above Steam Locomotive Railway Ekiben you can buy at Shin Kanaya Station!
Another one at the same station depicting the Shimada Obi Festival!
A third one colorful at the same station!
Containing a local product: green tea steamed rice!
If one day you have the chance to get down at Shuzenji Station in the middle of Izu Peninsula, do not forget to visit this stand selleing “Aji Sushi/Horese Mackerel Sushi” with real wasabi!
So you know what to sample next time you travel through Shizuoka and the rest of japan: an unending gastronomy travel!
RECOMMENDED RELATED WEBSITES
So Good Sushi Restaurant in Nice France
Navigating Nagoya by Paige, Shop with Intent by Debbie, BULA KANA in Fiji, Kraemer’s Culinary blog by Frank Kraemer in New York,Tokyo Food File by Robbie Swinnerton, Green Tea Club by Satoshi Nihonyanagi in Shizuoka!, Mind Some by Tina in Taiwan, Le Manger by Camille Oger (French), The Indian Tourist, Masala Herb by Helene Dsouza in Goa, India, Mummy I Can Cook! by Shu Han in London, Pie
rre.Cuisine, Francescannotwrite, My White Kitchen, Foodhoe, Chucks Eats, Things that Fizz & Stuff, Five Euro Food by Charles,Red Shallot Kitchen by Priscilla,With a Glass, Nami | Just One Cookbook, Peach Farm Studio, Clumsyfingers by Xethia, PepperBento, Hapabento, Kitchen Cow, Lunch In A Box, Susan at Arkonlite, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Bento Lunch Blog (German), Adventures In Bento, Anna The Red’s Bento Factory, Ohayo Bento,
Must-see tasting websites:
-Sake: Ichi For The Michi by Rebekah Wilson-Lye in Tokyo, Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Another Pint, Please!, Beering In Good Mind: All about Craft Beer in Kansai by Nevitt Reagan!
ABRACADABREW, Magical Craftbeer from Japan
-Whisky: Nonjatta: All about whisky in Japan by Stefan Van Eycken
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery
Non gastronomy must-see sites by Shizuoka Residents
HIGHOCTANE/HAIOKU by Nick Itoh in Shizuoka CityShizuoka
2 thoughts on “Ekiben: The Railroads Bento of Japan!”
Numazu, that’s where I had some good nama shirasu!
Shizuoka-ken tempts me too much with its tea, eel, Brazilian food, and pretty much every other dish for which its known. Must go back!
Excellent post!! This reminds me of a video I saw this week! it was an interesting Japanese travel/documentary about Ekiben’s that someone put up on Youtube. It looked pretty recent but it was about a female competitive eater (forgot her name but she’s pretty well known from the contests she’s been in) who took several classic and modern train rides around what I believe was Kyushu. Through out her trip on the trains she bought and ate various types of Ekiben which looked delicious! I think she had the bento in your first picture. This is something I would love to do when I visit Japan someday. 🙂
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