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Ekiben (駅弁) is the abbreviation of Eki (駅) for station and Bento (弁当) for packed lunch. Ekiben is almost as old as the railroads and railways in Japan and has been, with highs and lows, a feature at important stations all over the country.

EKIBEN-1902

Ekiben being sold to travelers in 1902

Copyright: United States Library of Congress

The very first ekiben was officially sold (actually two kinds of them) at Utsunomiya Station in Tochigi Prefecture in 1885, although food had been allowed to be sold at stations and trains since 1877 in Kobe and Osaka Cities.


Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), kamakura

Traditional ekiben booth inside Kamakura Station

There is even a complete Ekiben Homepage (in Japanese only).

These days they are sold either at shops and stands located the entrance to the tracks, inside station markets or at stands on the very rail platforms although this is far from being a general rule. It is always a better idea to buy them before going through the gate to the platforms.

Shizuoka Prefecture has the third largest number of bentos on record (161 in 2015) after Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture as it has the largest number of Shinkansen/bullet train stations (6) in Japan and t takes no less than 3 hours to cross Shizuoka Prefecture from Atami to Shinjohara, notwithstanding the the lines crisscrossing the rest of the Prefecture, especially Izu Peninsula.

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), kakegawaHamamatsu Mikkabi Beef Ekiben in Kakegawa Station

Like the rest of Japan, this is the best way for travelers and tourists to discover the local gastronomy, be that of a Prefecture, region city or even village. For example, Numazu is famous for its harbor and fish but there is most consistent fare nearby.

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch),numazuEkiben stand in front of the entrance gate in Numazu

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), ashitaka beefRare Ashitaka Beef Ekiben

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch),mishima , chirashi zushiAlthough Mishima is away from the sea, it does offer a tasty Chirashi Zushi (Decoration Sushi) at its station

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), kakegawaSome ekiben come in truly cute wrappings for collectors as the above “Kazutoyo Ekiben” sold at Kakegawa Station

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), kakegawa

And the contents are as beautiful

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), Fuyu chisen

Some stations like Shizuoka also have limited seasonal ekiben like this Winter “Chisen Fuyu Ekiben”

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), Fuyu chisen

I savored it on the train to Tokyo

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), Fuji no kuni

Even the Shizuoka Prefecture Tourist and Agricultural department promote themselves through ekiben like this “Fuji no Kuni/Mount Fuji Land” in Shin Fuji Station.

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), Mount fuji Shaped

Mount Fuji-shaped Ekiben

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), Unagi, eel

Broiled eels are a specialty of Shizuoka Prefecture

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), Unagi, eel

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), Oigawa, SL

Simple and delicious! Don’t forget some of the labels, wrappings and boxes can easily become collector’s items such as the above Steam Locomotive Railway Ekiben which you can buy at Shin Kanaya Station.

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), Shimada obi festivalAnother one at the same station depicting the Shimada Obi Festival

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), Shimada

A third one colorful at the same station

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), Shimada

Containing a local product: green tea steamed rice

Ekiben is the abbreviation of Eki (station) and Bento (packed lunch), Aji sushi

If one day, you have the chance to get down at Shuzenji Station in the middle of Izu Peninsula, do not forget to visit this stand selling “Aji Sushi/Horse Mackerel Sushi” with real wasabi. Now you know what to sample next time you travel through Shizuoka and the rest of japan: an unending gastronomy travel!

Robert-Gilles Martineau

Robert-Gilles Martineau

Robert-Gilles Martineau, a 40-year French resident in Shizuoka and japan has been blogging and writing about his love for Japanese gastronomy and tourism in three languages since 1998. His motto: "There is always a new place to visit and a new food to taste out there!"

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