Ekiben is bento box sold at stations for long train rides. The Japanese word ekiben is essentially a combination of the words eki, meaning “station,” and bento, the traditional Japanese lunch box.
Ekiben, however, are no ordinary fast food. Regions throughout the country take pride in their ekiben, with its food and packaging often providing a sample of the culture of that area. All come in convenient containers, but some make unique and special souvenirs. Some ekiben have been popular for decades, others for hundreds of years.
Tokyo Station is one of Japan’s largest and busiest stations, with about 40,000 people passing through it each day. Ekibenya Matsuri is a shop in Tokyo Station,meaning “festival of bentos,” sells 200 different kinds of ekiben from all over the country and sells more than 10,000 ekiben a day! Even though Ekibenya Matsuri is a pretty big store, is always super crowded all year around.
Ekiben are very affordable. If you are in the mood for a snack, you can acquire a small box for around ¥500. Most meal sized ekiben cost between ¥800 and ¥1300. Not primarily marketed to tourists – ekiben is what the local residents eat, a homemade style meal on the way to work or while traveling within the country. Japanese people often pick up bento boxes to eat even when they are not traveling. When you eat ekiben, therefore, you are getting a real taste of Japanese culture. Ekiben also provide an enjoyable way to pass the time while waiting at the Tokyo metro station or elsewhere.
It’s never an easy pick when came to choose the ekiben at Ekibenya Matsuri. Seafood ekiben includes salmon fish roe and shirasu fish (baby sardines) are a sure bet! The popping little oily spheres are just so irresistible, and you should try shirasu if you haven’t already!
If seafood isn’t your thing then rest assured because there are a plethora of other options for you. Katsu cutlet bento boxes are very popular as well and very Japanese.There are also some vegetarian, healthy and light options. Everyone can find an ekiben that they love… and don’t forget to get a beer! Drinking on the train is also part of the experience.
Tokyo Station is a great spot to try lots of bento boxes with specialties from all over Japan. Next time you travel from there, make sure get your ekiben before you hop on the train!