Japanese Railway Bento 駅弁 • Simply One Cookbook


In Japan, don’t miss the chance to take long-distance trains. Whereas at it, deal with your self to an Ekiben (駅弁), the flowery bento field designed explicitly for practice journey. 

bento box with grids on a train table

The small island nation of Japan is nice for practice fans and vacationers basically, because the railway community is huge and expansive. The Shinkansen (bullet practice; 新幹線), high-speed rail, and native trains can transport you all the way in which north from Hokkaido to southern Kyushu. Whilst you can fly, touring by practice is handy, secure, punctual, and a completely totally different expertise! You could cross spectacular mountains, ocean views, or scenic countryside. Practice journey is not only for international vacationers so you could be seated subsequent to a pleasant Japanese traveler!

Plus, with a JR cross, you possibly can run round Japan on the JR strains, together with the Shinkansen!

Once you journey on the practice, begin your journey by feasting on a bento lunch field you picked up on the station. When you board, push again your chair, chill, and benefit from the stunning unfold earlier than you!

shinkansen train arriving at station

What’s Ekiben?

Moveable meals for long-distance journey will not be distinctive to Japan, however “Ekiben” (pronounced ey-key-ben; 駅弁) is probably fairly Japanese. The phrase Ekiben consists of the Chinese language characters “Eki” (station; 駅) and “Ben” (bento; 弁); subsequently, “practice station bento” = bento you should purchase on the practice station.

ekiben shop inside train station

There aren’t any set definitions for Ekiben, but it surely loosely refers to any packaged meal offered at practice stations and practice platforms. Whereas bento containers will at all times have rice in some kind, bento containing sandwiches, noodles, and non-rice dishes comparable to Shumai and Gyoza may also be referred to as Ekiben. All through historical past, there have been companies and organizations who’ve tried to slim the definition. Nevertheless, the time period is broadly used right this moment.

two bento boxes on a train table next to a bottle of tea

In comparison with the bento discovered at konbini (comfort shops) or the grocery store, Ekiben is costlier, normally round 1000-2000 yen (if no more!) So, how is Ekiben totally different from on a regular basis bento?

First, Ekiben is an expensive deal with (as a result of journey can also be a luxurious!) and infrequently showcases native or seasonal produce and specialties. It might be made at upscale eating places with high-end substances, spotlight native specialties and produce solely obtainable at particular areas or stations, or function common characters comparable to Doraemon or Pikachu!

One other kind of bento for journey consists of “Soraben” 空弁 (Sora = sky, Ben = bento), a bento offered at airports.

ekiben with sushi and salmon

The place can I purchase Ekiben?

Ekiben is offered at practice station hubs, main malls, and contained in the practice. You don’t should be a traveler to indulge in a single, and you may simply buy them at Shinkansen stops comparable to Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka stations. They’re not marketed only for international vacationers, so anybody can style what the Japanese eat.

Relying in your pursuits, you could discover ekiben with karaage fried rooster, tonkatsu pork cutlets, sushi, wagyu beef, ikura salmon roe, rice-stuffed boiled squid, or greens.

selection of bento inside ekiben shop

For those who’re passing by Tokyo station, browse the huge choice at Ekibenya Matsuri close to the Marunouchi exit. This retailer makes a speciality of Ekiben, carrying round 200 varieties offered round Japan. So, for those who’re tight on time and funds throughout your keep, you possibly can simply savor regional cuisines with out a practice ticket!

The Historical past of Ekiben

The historical past of Ekiben is intertwined with the event of the Japanese railway system in 1872. Because the opening of Japan’s first railway, it has been an important technique of transportation, connecting the scattered metropolitan areas and delivering items and companies across the island nation.

three bento boxes on a train table

There are a number of contested theories of the place Ekiben was first offered, however most say it began in 1885 in Utsunomiya station. The “bento” consisted of two onigiri (rice balls) with umeboshi and takuan wrapped in bamboo leaves. Shirokiya Ryokan in Utsunomiya claims to have created the primary Ekiben, informed through oral historical past, as written information have been destroyed in the course of the air raids of WWII. The value in right this moment’s forex was 600 yen, which was costly on the time as white rice was a luxurious.

Maneki Shokuhin claimed to promote the primary bento containers in 1890 in Himeji station. The bento consisted of a number of dishes, together with sea bream, Date Maki, Tamagoyaki, kamaboko fish truffles, cooked beans, and different tasty morsels, together with white rice.

two bento boxes on a train table

Ceramic pots of inexperienced tea referred to as Kisha Dobin (汽車土瓶) would typically accompany the Ekiben, the place the lid served as a teacup. It’s mentioned that the primary Kisha Dobin appeared in 1889 in Shizuoka station (Shizuoka prefecture being a significant producer of inexperienced tea).

As a result of sanitation points, the teapots have been phased out and changed by cheaper disposable plastic bottles. Nevertheless, you possibly can nonetheless buy the old school Kisha Dobin in restricted portions at Kobuchizawa Station in Yamanashi prefecture and different stations.

two bento boxes on a train table next to a beer can and tea bottle

Consuming And Ingesting Etiquettes on Practice

Able to board? Listed below are just a few etiquette ideas for a cushty trip for you and your fellow vacationers.

  • Consuming and consuming on commuter/native trains (not Shinkansen and long-distance trains) are typically frowned upon. A fast sip from an enclosed consuming vessel is okay; don’t spill or make a large number!
  • Unsure if it’s okay to eat and drink on the practice? Observe your environment! As a rule of thumb, it’s positive on the Shinkansen and long-distance trains.
  • For frequent courtesy, keep away from strong-smelling meals. Most ekiben and store-bought bento are likely to keep away from these meals, however for those who packed your individual or purchased one thing distinctive, maybe it could possibly wait till you’ve disembarked.
  • Equally, keep away from noisy meals that requires loud crunching or makes loud noises to open.
  • Consuming alcoholic drinks is suitable, however getting rowdy will not be, so be conscious of your tolerance (for these curious, the consuming age in Japan is 20, and public consuming is tolerated).
  • After your meal, wipe down the tray desk for the following passenger.
  • Don’t go away trash within the seat pocket or in your seat. There are trash bins close to the practice doorways and on the platform. For those who don’t see a trash bin, take it while you disembark.
  • When tossing your trash, don’t overlook to separate receptacles for glass, cans, paper, and burnable/non-burnable.
  • Lastly, sit again and revel in your meal and expertise!
two bento boxes on a train table next to a bottle of tea

Able to board?

Do you have got reminiscences of practice journey in Japan or consuming an Ekiben? Have you ever eaten an Ekiben equal pre-packed meal outdoors of Japan? Please share your tales within the remark field beneath!

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