How to make your Japan train journeys even better? Before you head out, pick up one of these beautifully presented ekiben (train bento boxes) from major stations around Tokyo for the perfect onboard snack (also read up on interesting bento facts in our infographic).
A tasty bento that does not contain any meat, fish, dairy or eggs, making it suitable not only for vegetarians but vegans as well. In addition to a tofu patty and two kinds of rice, the box is bursting full of colorful vegetables both deep-fried and steamed including zucchini, asparagus, bamboo shoots, lotus root and marinated red cabbage.
FIND IT: Available from various outlets at Tokyo Station and inside Shinjuku JR Station South Concourse.
Daruma Lunch Box
One of the most unique ekibens in the country is the daruma lunch box from Takasaki Station in Gunma Prefecture, an area well known for the lucky, wide-eyed daruma dolls. The fun and functional box first went on sale in the 1960s and features a slot at the mouth so you can reuse it as a coin bank. The handmade lunch consists of cold chicken, four types of mushrooms, two types of konnyaku, and an abundance of mountain vegetables on rice with soy sauce flavor.
FIND IT: Available at Takasaki Station (Gunma), Tokyo Station, Ueno Station, Omiya Station, and on board the Joetsu Shinkansen.
Not just for kids and train spotters, the cute bullet train bento box also makes a fantastic souvenir. Inside you will find everything you need in a family friendly, snack-filled lunch meal: two onigiri rice balls (one salmon, one tuna), pickled radish, French fries, fried chicken, a shrimp fritter, meatball, hotdog wiener and macaroni salad. There’s even a little tiny cake for dessert.
FIND IT: Available at Tokyo Station, Shinjuku Station, Ueno Station, Omiya Station, and the Railway Museum.
The Tokyo Bento
This limited lunch box contains a selection of specialties from some of Tokyo’s finest gourmet stores and restaurants. The delicious contents include king salmon from Uokyu in Ningyocho, sweetened beef served with bamboo shoots from Asakusa’s Imahan, Sushitama Aoki’s perfect tamagoyaki (rolled omelet), and vegetables from Nihonbashi Daimasu in addition to a variety of side dishes.
FIND IT: Available from selected vendors at Tokyo Station.
Hot Grilled Beef Bento
Another string to the bow of Japan’s ingenuity is the invention of the self-heating bento (kanetsu-shiki ekiben). Simply pull the string with your dish still inside the paper packaging and wait five to six minutes to enjoy your hot meal! There are a few variations by different manufacturers, but this Ataka Gyuyakiniku Bento (Hot Grilled Beef Bento) features two types of beef and onion sauce, together with stir-fried beansprouts and vegetable garnishes on a bed of rice.
FIND IT: Available from several major station terminals in Tokyo.
Shiumai (A Yokohama Speciality)
This ever-popular dumpling set dates way back to the 1950s, and was created by local shop Kiyoken, which now operates over 150 stores! The name, which refers to shumai (Chinese dumplings), is purposely misspelled as Shiumai in katakana, presumably to be a pun emphasizing the umai (“tasty”). Five meat dumplings are served together with karaage (deep-fried chicken), grilled tuna, fish cake, omelette, side dishes and steamed rice sprinkled with black sesame and a plum.
FIND IT: Available from numerous vendors in stations across Yokohama and Tokyo, and Haneda Airport. Look out for the famous “shumai ladies” in their bright red uniforms.