Your trip to Japan will definitely not be complete if you fail to sample ekiben. Ekiben is a combination of the words “eki” (i.e. train station) and “bento” (i.e. lunch box) which when you combine together literally means lunch box at a train station. These ekiben have long been standing in Japan for decades with their much-deserved prestige for superiority in their flavors yet reasonable prices.
Through the years, ekiben has become a gateway for people to sample some of Japan’s local delicacies. Many local foods that residents of the areas are quite proud of are available in different regions. Thus, before you pack your bags home and leave Japan, here are the top three of the must-try ekiben that you should not miss.
This ekiben has been produced since 1895 and it has been reported that people from Hong Kong placed their orders online before they even visit Japan. Sold only in Matsusaka Station in Mie Prefecture, this beef bento tray (gyuniku bento gozen) offers a taste of the famous Matsusaka Japanese black beef at an affordable price. You will not have to go to an expensive restaurant that serves steak and barbecue. Along with the Japanese black beef, some non-meat side dishes are also included to balance the rich flavor of the meat.
Toge no Kamameshi is served at the following locations: Yokokawa Station and Annaka-Haruna Station in Gunma Prefecture. What makes this ekiben distinct from others is that it uses heated earthen bowls which are washed in warm water thereby keeping the meal warm until it is time to eat. Cooked rice is mixed with kelp broth and other secret ingredients. Then, it is topped with assorted colorful side dishes from the mountainside which make the meal very tasty. Although this bento was first introduced in 1958, it became very popular among younger travelers and has attracted a huge following because of its taste.
Sold since 1901 in Miyajimaguchi Station and Hiroden-miyajima-guchi Station in Hiroshima prefecture, Anago Meshi (conger eel rice) ekiben links the people to the taste of Miyajima Island. The island is special for having been declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The conger eel is the main course in this bento and it is drizzled with a special sauce on top of the rice cooked in eel broth. The secret sauce has been used since the Meiji era (1868-1912). As opposed to Toge no Kamameshi, the bento tastes better when it is cold. A paper covering, with about 70-plus designs, adds flavor to the bento which is also a selling point to the customers.
Which one of these ekiben would you like to sample on your travels?