Thursday, 8 October 2009

Appreciating Japan Through The Ekibens

This will be one of many posts on ekiben. We not only love to ride the trains in Japan, we love to indulge ourselves to the ekiben that were offered at each station we stopped by or bought inside the trains itself. Last year's trip to Japan was a gastronomic affair of ekibens for us as we traveled from Kyushu to Tokyo, stopping in between for not only sight-seeing but for the ekibens too. I didn't write posts about the specific ekiben that we ate in each region, traveling upward last year, so I thought I might just do it this time around.

Unfortunately this time, there weren't many opportunities for us to try out different region choice of packed lunch because we were limited by our JR East Pass to travel in just 3 days. We bought a 3-day JR East pass for a promotional fare at only 10,000yen per person to travel on JR East trains. It was a bargain!

The word ekiben comes from "eki-uri bento," or "lunch-box sold at train stations". Ekiben (boxed lunches or lunch-boxes) are widely popular for their local flavors that feature many different kinds of specialties found only in respective regions of the country. Some of these ekibens decorative boxes and even earthenware that can be re-used later. We kept some of the boxes and brought them back too.

It is also important to note that the ekibens purchased at railway stations are completely safe for consumption because Japan's rules and regulations are extremely stringent. All the contents are clearly written and a sticker with information on the exact time when usold lunches/dinners will be collected and discarded! I read a news about a minor scandal involving sale of expired bentos some years ago. I guess that's why we never saw any ekiben or bentos sold at hugely discounted price because it is near to its expiry period!

While there were plenty of choices of ekibens to choose from; both at the train stations and in the trains, both Zaini and I had somewhat limited choice because as Muslims, we do need (in our case here, try as best as we can) to avoid meat products that were not slaughtered in the Islamic way and of course, Pork. However, the staff selling these ekibens were helpful enough to answer all my questions about the ingredients of the items they were selling. Nobody rolled eyes at us for asking too many questions. And we try to be considerate by not asking questions about the ingredients when there were other customers there even if that meant eating lunch way after 2.00pm when there were lesser crowd (or buying ahead).

13 comments:

  1. First time learning about ekibens! Interesting! So Japan has very strict rules on food safety? So different from China! Haha!

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  2. i love jap bentos too, whenever i go to japanese fastfoods and restaurants i always eye on bentos. Can't get enough of it!

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  3. Very interesting and I'm enjoying learning about Japan through you.

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  4. @foong,
    yes, very strict rules. Not only China leh... different from Malaysia too...

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  5. @Ayie,
    You should try eating them in Japan. A totally different experience, even for the bentos sold at the convenience stores. They were sooooo good!

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  6. @Poetic Shutterbug,
    I'm glad to share our Japan experiences with you guys. :-)

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  7. wow this is new to me! Animes don't teach all this! Gasps!

    Interesting... it is like food on the go! Yet fresh meal! Not those nougat, muesli bar thing... Yummy~

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  8. @ladyviral,
    because anime don't show people moving around on trains, mah!

    Antony Bourdain ate one on his No Reservation episode while zipping in a shinkansen, but not much had been covered about ekiben in all the travel programme that I've watched. A pity, I say.

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  9. Eh.. no wor.. I watched an anime showed them on trains :P and buses too! Hahaha should talk about ekiben too! Go watch it "Lucky Star" funny anime hehe :P.

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  10. @ladyviral,
    Really. I guess all the animes I watched didn't involve ppl moving around in trains, just ppl slashing demons and such. :D

    True, they should mention about ekiben. It is a unique Japanese experience, in my opinion.

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  11. now this is something new and educational to me. thanks for the snippets of Japanese culture.

    great post!

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  12. @Life Ramblings,
    Thanks. :)

    Sure glad to share a bit of Japanese experience with you guys. :)

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