Enjoy ekiben, a rail travel must-have
If you’ve visited Japan before, especially the busy metropolitan cities of Tokyo and Osaka, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of speedy trains running through railway tracks, had a peek in some of the world’s busiest train stations, or took at least one train ride—short or long—to your destination. While Japan’s extensive railway network may intimidate the faint-hearted, it brings about feats of conveniences and connectivity unimaginable less than a century ago. Whether you’re heading to your office, school, or even a day trip to a neighbouring prefecture, the option to ride on trains is always present in Japan.
No matter which train you take—be it on the local line or on the shinkansen (新幹線) bullet trains—each ride takes you on an adventure with plenty of sights and experiences along the way at every nook and cranny of Japan’s four main islands. And what’s a better companion to accompany you through your exciting train ride than a trusty ekiben?
Ekiben: Eki-citing meals to eat onboard trains
Enjoy ekiben onboard trains. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)
An integral part of the railway experience is enjoying ekiben (駅弁) on board. Short for eki (駅 railway station) and bentō (弁当 lunch box), ekiben essentially means “railway station lunch boxes” that are prepared and sold primarily for the purpose of being consumed on-the-go onboard trains. This also means that ekiben is usually eaten at room temperature without the need to warm it up—in fact, each ekiben is deliberately crafted with ingredients and toppings that will remain tasty and edible even when unheated!
Ekibenya on the platform. (Image credit: 663highland / CC BY 2.5)
Available for purchase at most railway stations, an ekiben makes for the perfect companion on a long-distance trip along a local line or onboard the shinkansen. Purchasing an ekiben is as easy as it gets—just look out for an ekibenya (駅弁屋 station bento shop) and pick an ekiben of your choice! While most ekibenya can be found within the station, some are even situated right at the platform for you to make that last-minute meal-grab. How “eki-citing”!
Ekibenya Matsuri in Tokyo Station. (Image credit: 迷惘的人生 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Ekiben come in all shapes and sizes, featuring seasonal ingredients and regional delicacies from whichever station you purchase them from. If you’re not travelling far from Tokyo but still wish to taste the different varieties of ekiben, head down to Japan’s biggest ekiben specialty store: Ekibenya Matsuri (駅弁屋祭), which is located right inside Tokyo Station.
The contenders for the 2020 Ekiben Grand Prix. (Image credit: East Japan Railway Company)
Don’t underestimate Japan’s love for ekiben. In fact, the annual Ekiben Grand Prix (駅弁味の陣 Ekiben Aji-no-Jin) takes place annually in autumn to allow people to vote for the “Ekiben of the Year”.
Enjoy “Ekiben Deluxe”, delivered right to your doorstep in Singapore
Join us on a virtual autumn journey in Eastern Japan on 21 and 28 November. (Image credit: JAPAN RAIL CAFE)
For the rest of us who’d have to put our rail travel plans in Japan on hold during this pandemic, chins up! As part of the upcoming and highly-anticipated “The Japan Rail Fair”, East Japan Railway Company (JR East) Singapore will be serving an exclusive “Ekiben Deluxe Set” to you this November!
Come 21 and 28 November, take part in the “Enjoy Autumn rail travel with Ekiben!” webinar where JR East will be taking you on a virtual autumn journey in Eastern Japan while you savour a sumptuous Ekiben Deluxe Set at home. Apart from introducing you to the different autumn sightseeing spots and activities one can enjoy there, participants will also get to learn more about ekiben culture and the various Joyful Trains in Eastern Japan.
The Ekiben Deluxe Set comes in limited-edition shinkansen packaging. (Image credit: JAPAN RAIL CAFE)
Using the exact same recipes as those in Japan, the Ekiben Deluxe Set is a double-delight of Japan’s most popular ekiben meals in a limited-edition packaging—instead of ordinary ekiben boxes, expect your meal to be presented in the adorable E6 Komachi and E7 Kagayaki Shinkansen ekiben boxes! Both the E6 Komachi and E7 Kagayaki shinkansen run along some of Eastern Japan’s busiest bullet train lines, bringing passengers to and fro Tokyo and Akita, and Tokyo and Kanazawa respectively.
The original Gyuniku Bento sold in Tokyo Station. (Image credit: JR East Foods Company)
In the E6 Komachi ekiben box, you’ll get a taste of the crowd’s favourite Gyuniku Bento (牛肉弁当)—featuring Kanto-style beef sukiyaki and beef soboro, accompanied by pickles and an ajitama flavoured egg.
The original Shake Harako Bento from Miyagi Prefecture. (Image credit: JR East Foods Company)
The E7 Kagayaki ekiben box features the brightly-coloured Shake Harako Bento (鮭はらこ弁当) from Miyagi Prefecture (宮城県 Miyagi-ken), boasting a mighty trio of grilled salmon, salmon flakes, and salmon roe—definitely a must-try for salmon lovers.
Train goodies up for grabs with every order of the Ekiben Deluxe Set. (Image credit: JR Times)
The best part about these ekiben is that the boxes are reusable! Repurpose these shinkansen ekiben boxes to store your favourite trinkets or stash of railway tickets. Apart from the nutritious meal, the Ekiben Deluxe Set also comes with train goodies from JR East such as a handy foldable travel bag and shinkansen mobile phone screen cleaners.
While the webinar is a free-for-all event, the Ekiben Deluxe Sets (S$19) run on limited quantities per session. Tickets go on sale from 9 November at 12:00pm sharp, so mark your calendars and invite your friends and family to register together!
The Japan Rail Fair by JAPAN RAIL CAFE
–A Virtual Trip to Japan–
20–22 & 27–28 November 2020
JAPAN RAIL CAFE proudly presents The Japan Rail Fair—the first ever online rail travel fair—to your screens! Learn more about the different aspects of Japan’s railway in this fun-filled week—where there will be exciting activities as well as informative webinars, sharing sessions, and engaging workshops that celebrate the wonders of Japan rail travel. More details will be released in early November, so in the meantime mark your calendars and we’ll see you rail-ly soon!
Enjoy Autumn rail travel with Ekiben!
Organised by JR East Singapore x JAPAN RAIL CAFE
Session 1: 21 November 2020, 11am–12pm
Session 2: 28 November 2020, 1–2pm
Join us LIVE on The Japan Rail Fair or Facebook
Header image credit: JR East / JR Times