The word ekiben comes from a combination of the words “eki” (station) and “ben” (short for “bento”, meaning lunch box). Basically, ekibens are the station or region specific lunches that are sold at train stations all over Japan.
There are various stories as to when and where the first Japanese ekibens were sold, but the most popular version states that July 16th 1885 was the first day that a traditional Japanese hotel was selling rice balls at Utsunomiya station.
There used to be people on the train station platforms selling ekibens directly to the people who were sitting on a train through the window, but now there are only 10 stations left nation-wide that still offer such services.
Currently most ekibens are sold at kiosks or convenience stores on the train station platforms.
There are various ekibens available at the train stations all over Japan now that feature the specialty foods in the region. Also special collaboration ekibens including characters such as Naruto and Kitaro are being produced. Here is a popularity ranking list of the ekibens sold all around Japan, starting from number five! If you see any of these ekibens during your travels here in Japan, please make sure to try them!
The salmon and salmon roe in this bento come from the ocean of Miyagi prefecture. This ekiben is available at Sendai station and is a great hit with salmon lovers.
This ekiben has oysters, clams and whelk. The rice blends perfectly with the oysters bringing this ekiben into 4th place.
This ekiben can be found at Yonezawa Station. This voluminous beef ekiben is sure to please anybody!
This beef tongue ekiben is available at Sendai Station.
This ekiben is an amazing combination of Yonezawa beef and brand rice. The slightly sweet taste of this ekiben makes it a popular choice for everyone, leading to its position being number one in the chart!