Eki-citing Tokyo: Ramen versus Ekiben
If you ever find yourself hungry in Tokyo Station (東京駅 Tokyo-eki), fret not–your problem is surely a short-lived one. At 182,000 square meters and serving over 450,000 passengers every day, Tokyo Station is one of the largest stations in Japan with more than 20 platforms. Extensively linked by a network that merges with its neighbouring shopping centres and commercial spaces, the one and only “Station City” in the world is blessed with innumerable dining options that would make gourmet hunters very happy.
While there are plenty of food choices around, we’ll be focusing on two types of cuisines that are hot favourites with Singaporean travellers: Ekiben (駅弁 train bento) and Ramen (ラーメン Japanese noodles). Let the battle begin!
The first contender: Ekiben
(Image credit: JR East Foods Co.,Ltd.)
Ekiben literally translates into “train station lunchbox”, where “eki” refers to station, and “ben” is a short form of bento (弁当 lunchbox). They are different from a regular bento because certain ekiben are sold exclusively at specific train stations, and hence there is a strong local culture of travellers making it a point to try the local ekiben whenever they are travelling domestically! You can read more about the history and culture of ekiben in this article.
(Image credit: Ekibenya Matsuri)
If you’re planning to have your meal on the move, drop by Ekibenya Matsuri (駅弁屋 祭) to have your pick on an ekiben that you can enjoy while riding the train!
It’s hard to miss Ekibenya Matsuri, near the Central Passage of Gransta Tokyo. Click here for a larger, printable version of the map. (Image credit: Tokyo Station City)
To get here, head towards the Tohoku • Joetsu • Hokuriku Shinkansen South Transfer Gates (東北・上越・北陸新幹線南のりかえ口 Tōhoku Jōetsu Hokuriku shinkansen minami norikae-guchi), and you should see Ekibenya Matsuri along the Central Passage of Gransta Tokyo.
You’ll feel a rush of excitement over the sheer variety of ekiben that comes in all shapes and sizes. To get you started, we’ll be sharing 4 honourable mentions. Are you ready?
Tokyo Bento (¥1,850)
Aptly named Tokyo Bento, this extravagant ekiben consists a variety of items handpicked from 8 different shinise (老舗 established and old shops) around Tokyo. Exclusively sold in Tokyo Station, this ekiben celebrates the rich history and charms of the city. (Image credit: JR East Foods Co.,Ltd.)
Shinkansen E7 Kei Bento (¥1,300)
Extremely popular among children, consisting of easy-to-eat nibbles like chicken karaage, onigiri, ebi fry, and many more. You may even keep the train container as a cute display after the meal! (Image credit: JR East Foods Co.,Ltd.)
Toge no Kamameshi (¥1,100)
A modern spin on kamameshi (釜飯 kettle rice), which is a traditional dish of rice, meat, and vegetables boiled together in a small iron pot. This ekiben is typically sold in a reusable ceramic pot, but at Tokyo Station, it is served in a paper bowl filled with 9 kinds of ingredients atop a bed of shoyu-flavoured rice. This unique paper packaging was even awarded the “Good Design Award” in 2013. (Image credit: Oginoya Co.,Ltd.)
Gyuniku Domannaka (¥1,250)
This delicious beef ekiben is noted for its fluffy Domannaka rice from Yamagata Prefecture, topped with marinated beef slices and beef soboro (minced beef) in a special sauce. (Image credit: SHINKINEYA)
Ekibenya Matsuri (駅弁屋 祭)
Address: 1-9-1 Marunouchi Central Street 1F (Inside JR Tokyo Station GRANSTA Tokyo), Chiyoda, Tokyo, 100-0005
Nearest station: Tokyo Station (東京駅)
Opening hours: 5:30am–11pm
The second contender: Ramen
If you have a little time to spare, consider dining-in at Ramen Gekisenku (ラーメン 激戦区 Ramen Battlefield) for a hearty bowl of ramen.
Prior to its grand opening, the ramen-hungry would typically flock to Tokyo Ramen Street (東京ラーメンストリート) near the Yaesu South Exit (八重洲南口 Yaesu Minamiguchi) of Tokyo Station—you may refer to this article for more information.
However, the grand debut of Ramen Gekisenku in March 2019 has changed everything—there is now a second ramen haunt near the Marunouchi South Gate (丸の内南口 Marunouchi Minamiguchi), bringing Tokyo Station’s ramen game to a whole new level.
Are you ready to enter “The Ramen Battlefield”? Not to be confused with the Tokyo Ramen Street near the Yaesu South Exit. Click here for a larger, printable version of the map. (Image credit: Tokyo Station City)
To get there, head towards the Marunouchi Underground South Exit and go through the underground space to the B1 entrance of KITTE Marunouchi. Once you spot a walkway flanked by ramen shops on your left, you’ll know that you have arrived at Ramen Gekisenku!
(Image credit: Tokyo Station City)
Today, we’ll be introducing the ramen brands that make up Ramen Gekisenku: ChukaSoba Fukumi (中華そば 福味), Matsudo Tomitamenban (松戸富田麺絆), Tokyo style Miso Ramen Do • Miso (東京スタイルみそらーめん ど・みそ), and Szechuan Tantanmen Aun (四川担担麺 阿吽).
ChukaSoba Fukumi prides itself on its hearty soup stock that is brewed by chefs using whole Shingen-dori (信玄鶏 Shingen Chicken). Their signature dish is the Chuka Soba (¥820) pictured above. (Image credit: ChukaSoba Fukumi)
Their signature dish is a tsukemen (つけ麺 ramen with dipping broth) that has characteristically thick homemade noodles and a rich dipping sauce. Their main shop, Chuka Soba Tomita, was voted “Japan’s No.1 Ramen” for three years. (Image credit: Matsudo Tomitamenban)
Tokyo style Miso Ramen Do • Miso
Tokyo style Miso Ramen Do • Miso sets itself apart with its umami-rich miso soup stock.Their special blend of miso that is derived from five different types of red miso from the region. Try their signature dish, Toku Miso Kotteri (¥1,000) to taste it for yourself. (Image credit: Tokyo style Miso Ramen Do • Miso)
Szechuan Tantanmen Aun
Unlike the usual Tantanmen noodle soup that you’ll find in Japan, Szechuan Tantanmen Aun serves a soupless version that has proven to be a hit among the Japanese people. Craving for a more fiery bite today? The spiciness level can be customised to your preference. (Image credit: Szechuan Tantanmen Aun)
Ramen Gekisenku (ラーメン 激戦区)
Address: B1, 2-7-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (Inside JR Tokyo Station KITTE Marunouchi)
Nearest station: Tokyo Station (東京駅)
Opening hours: (Mon–Fri) 11:00am–10:00pm, (Sat–Sun, PH) 11:00am–9:00pm
So… Ramen or Ekiben?
Phew.. the sheer amount of choices and possibilities are endless even when we’ve tried to streamline into just two types of cuisines! If you’re choosing between Ramen and Ekiben, one suggestion is to consider the amount of time that you have to dine–if you’d like to sit down and have a proper meal in a restaurant, enter the Ramen Battlefield to choose your poison. If you’re travelling in the colder seasons of Autumn and Winter, how does a piping hot and comforting bowl of soup ramen sound to you?
Conversely, if you’re short on time and prefer to have your meal taken away, simply choose an ekiben from Ekibenya Matsuri and enjoy the experience of onboard-dining. Ekiben are designed to be delicious even when consumed at room temperature, so no worries about not having the time to heat up your food.
Whether or not you’re team ekiben or team ramen, chances are that you’ll be fully satisfied in Tokyo Station City.
Header image credit: Tokyo Station City
This article is written in collaboration with Tokyo Station City. All information presented is accurate as of 10 Mar 2021.