Japanese Bento Trivia: What is Ekiben?
Have you ever heard of “Bento (弁当)” boxed lunches called “Ekiben (駅弁)” sold at train stations in Japan?
The name Ekiben is actually a compound word composed of “Eki (駅)” meaning “station” in Japanese and “Ben (弁)” standing for Bento.
Ekiben comes in numerous varieties, and you will see various types being sold at train stations and on trains when you travel in Japan.
Since stores in large train stations usually carry many different varieties of Ekiben, it’s hard to decide what to choose.
Ekiben began to be sold for the first time in 1885 at the Utsunomiya railroad station in Tochigi. The original was Nigirimeshi rice balls.
There are two types of sales methods of Ekiben. One is stalls sell the boxed lunches over the counter in train stations. This is the most common selling method.
The other is salespersons carry around a variety of Ekiben in a cart, offering them on the platform in the station or on the train.
Anago Meshi (あなごめし)Image: Gurunavi
There are amazingly over 2000 different varieties of Ekiben in Japan. In fact, unique lunch boxes packed with various local specialties are available at local train stations.
Incidentally, according to Gurunavi’s Ekiben popularity ranking, “Anago Meshi (あなごめし: grilled sea eel rice)” ranks first as of Today.
Anago Meshi is the Ekiben bento whose rice is boiled with sea eel bone stock and topped with bite-size chunks of grilled Anago eel brushed with a sweet soy sauce-based sauce.
Toge no Kamameshi
Toge no Kamameshi (峠の釜めし)
“Toge no Kamameshi (峠の釜めし)” is one of the most famous and most loved Ekiben bento in Japan. It went on sale in 1958 at the Yokokawa railroad station in Gunma Prefecture.
This classic Ekiben is made up of pilaf-like rice in a small pot of the Mashiko Yaki ware, as Kamameshi is a Japanese pilaf dish traditionally cooked in a small iron pot.
(Reference Page: Wikipedia 駅弁 )