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Try an Ekiben Lunch When Traveling from Shinjuku Station

Dec 23, 2019

Have you heard of Ekiben before? Eki is the Japanese word for station, and ben is a short form of the word bento (boxed lunch). What makes ekiben different from standard bento is that, as the name implies, they are sold at stations specifically to be bought before a long journey. They are made to be eaten on the train without being heated up, so they are very flavorful even when cold. They are also generally filled with regional delicacies from the area they are purchased. Another difference from standard bento is that the lids are not clear, so you don’t know exactly what your meal will look like before you open it. As they are only purchased before traveling, it’s fun to pick one up to get your journey started!

Ekiben were first sold in 1885 at Utsunomiya Station in Tochigi prefecture. These first ekiben were simple meals featuring rice balls wrapped in bamboo leaves. Nowadays, they are much more elaborate with tons of variety available. In this article, our editors tried three different ekiben available for purchase at Shinjuku Station. Keep reading to find the ekiben that is perfect for you!

Chicken Bento (Nihonbashi Daimasu)

The long-selling Chicken Bento first went on sale in October 1964. Though the side-dishes have changed throughout the years, the main components of chicken rice and fried chicken haven’t. This year marks the 55th year this ekiben has been on sale, and in commemoration it has been revamped into a fried chicken and tomato-flavored rice combination that everyone from adults to children will love.

When you open this ekiben up, the tomato-flavored chicken rice and fried chicken are ready to welcome you, along with coleslaw and dried tomatoes on top of the rice. Although fried chicken is best served hot, this cold version will get the job done on a long journey. It’s said that the previous emperor of Japan loves this ekiben, so you can’t go wrong with this choice!

Recommended for those who want to eat fried chicken.

Yamaya Mentai Saizen (Nihon Airport Delica Co., Ltd.)

This ekiben was made in collaboration with Yamaya, a popular mentaiko (spicy cod roe) restaurant chain in Hakata on the island of Kyushu. This stylish hexagonal box will undoubtedly grab your attention right away. When you open it up, you will be greeted with many different side dishes. This ekiben truly represents Japanese cuisine! If you want to try authentic Japanese food, then this is the ekiben to pick up.

The star of this ekiben is the mentaiko, which does not contain any preservatives. We recommend eating it together with the pickled mustard leaf, seaweed and rice. If you eat these ingredients all in one bite, then the sweetness of the rice will stand out and you can try a good balance of all of the flavors. Every side dish is flavorful without being overpowering. Also try the teriyaki karei flounder – it isn’t too sweet, so you can enjoy a wide variety of flavors throughout your entire meal.

Recommended for those who want to try authentic Japanese food.

Sagami-an Anagomeshi (Odakyu Shokuhin)

The final ekiben we tried was the Sagami-an Anagomeshi. The octagonal box contains a simple meal of grilled conger eel dressed with sweet soy-sauce based sauce over rice boiled in tea with pieces of omelet cut into thin strips. The conger eels are all domestically caught, and the sauce is generously applied. The chewy conger eel and rice together are a perfect match!

Recommended for those who want a simple meal.

You can buy all of these ekiben on the platform for the limited express train in Odakyu Shinjuku Station. If you’re going to be taking the Odakyu Line to a faraway destination, then why not buy an ekiben so you can eat on the way there!