Maybe we don't get used to eating on the train. But it's possible when we're traveling in Japan by using long-distance train. As for Japan’s commuter train, it's the same with us here in Singapore where eating is strongly discouraged.
Luckily, it's common for people to have lunches on long-distance trains, such as the Shinkansen lines connecting the urban centers of Japan. Although you can buy foods and beverages from the sales ladies on the train, there's no Ekiben which can only be bought from the train station.
Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch boxes). Enjoying Ekiben is a pleasure for many Japanese people. They’re looking forward to buy a beautifully arranged bento as they are heading to another town. Here are a list of the most well-known Ekiben in each train station:
1. Bokoi station
This station in Hokkaido serves Bokoi Meshi, rice mixed with smoked cheese and northern clam. It’s a local treat!
2. Chiba station
Only a jump away from Tokyo. You can enjoy Chiba Eki Meibutsu Yakihama Don, a donburi-style bento. The bento served rice with burdock root mixed in, and three types of grilled clams. Yes, it has Chiba's famous Hamaguro clams that you shouldn't miss out.
3. Hiroshima station
Hiroshima is well-known for its great seafood. So, you can expect their amazing seafood by buying Omakase Sushi. Omakase means you're letting the chef choose for you. Usually, you will have rare sushi that includes oysters, beef, anago ell, and sardines. The oyster is probably the best choice, though, since it's the famous Hiroshima local food.
4. Izukyu Shimoda station
Lucky for you who are visiting Izu, you can try delicious Toro Kinme Shioyaki Bento. The Ekiben has the distinct salt-grilled Kinme (sea bream) and crisped nori. It's also serve a piece of lemon to squeeze on top of it.
5. Kobuchizawa station
The station located in Yamanashi prefecture where wine is its famous treat. Thus, the Ekiben you can find, named Koshu Wine Lunch, might surprise you. It served sushi and steak, but the tiny bottle of local white wine is what makes it so special.
6. Maibara station
Hands down, the Ekiben at this station has been a favourite since more than 20 years ago. Called Kohoku No Ohanashi, you will get rice with mushrooms and sweet sauce, goose, and tamago yaki. The Ekiben is hearty and tasty at the same time.
7. Shin-kobe station
Similar with Kobuchizawa station, you can have Kobe Wine Bento here. Enjoy wagyu beef, potatoes, saffron rice with a little bottle of Kobe chardonnay. The Ekiben could be the highlight of your day.
8. Tobu Nikko station
Treat yourself to try Nikko Masu Sushi if you're visiting Nikko by train. Masu sushi, which is made with local trout, has bright orange colour. And it's usually wrapped with toasted leaves. The Ekiben is beautiful and might increase your appetite.
9. Tsuwano station
The Ekiben you'll find here is probably most loved by vegetarians! Sansai Tsuwabuki Bento has himetake bamboo shoots, zenmai (stem), local wasabi, and lots of wild mushrooms, root vegetables and herbs.
10. Wakayama station
Sushi lovers, you will be a happy man when you're visiting this station. There's Kii Provence Wasabi Sushi that features all kinds of fresh fish wrapped in giant wasabi leaves. Sure it's delicious and satisfying for anyone who have it for lunch.
With so many options of Ekiben to buy, you should have the real Japanese train experience. Of course, it started with buying a local Ekiben. You will be hardly disappointed, anyway.