Ekiben History Unraveled, Japanese Train Bento 1872-2021

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Ekiben History Unraveled, Japanese Train Bento 1872-2021

Learn about the Ekiben History (train station bento). Takeaway meal sold at train stations and in trains across Japan that gives you a chance to taste the local cuisine without leaving the station.

Ekiben (駅弁当) is an abbreviation of ‘Eki-bento’ or ‘Eki-uri-bento’ and is made up of two Japanese words, namely ‘eki’ which means train station and ‘ben’ which is short for bento.

The Ekiben containers are available in convenient containers made from plastic, cardboard, wood, or porcelain with many making unique souvenirs. Where applicable they include utensils such as napkins, chopsticks, spoons, and a drink.

Ekiben Bento “Train Bento”
Ekiben Bento “Train Bento”

Ekiben Defenition

Learn about the Ekiben History (train station bento) is a takeaway meal sold in bento boxes at train stations and in trains across Japan that gives you a chance to taste the local cuisine without leaving the station. Learn about the Ekiben History (train station bento) is a takeaway meal sold in bento boxes at train stations and in trains across Japan that gives you a chance to taste the local cuisine without leaving the station. Learn about the Ekiben History (train station bento) is a takeaway meal sold in bento boxes at train stations and in trains across Japan that gives you a chance to taste the local cuisine without leaving the station.

Ekiben History

Learn about the Ekiben History (train station bento) is a takeaway meal sold in bento boxes at train stations and in trains across Japan that gives you a chance to taste the local cuisine without leaving the station. Learn about the Ekiben History (train station bento) is a takeaway meal sold in bento boxes at train stations and in trains across Japan that gives you a chance to taste the local cuisine without leaving the station. Learn about the Ekiben History (train station bento) is a takeaway meal sold in bento boxes at train stations and in trains across Japan that gives you a chance to taste the local cuisine without leaving the station.

1872

Ekiben history starts in 1872 Japan’s first railway open between Yokohama and Shimbashi in Tokyo. As far as can be determined from surviving documents, the first Ekiben made its debut 13 years later in 1885 at the Utsunomiya Train Station in Japan’s northern Kantō region. The meal consisted of two freshly made onigiri balls (rice balls), a few slices of pickled daikon radish wrapped in a sheet of bamboo bark.

Sold as a luxurious delicacy for upper class travellers for a little over 600 yen, it was expensive it was also sold with tea in Shigaraki teapots (glass bottles) known as Kisha Dobin (teapots sold on trains), with a lid that was used as a teacup. White rice was scarce at the time so Ekiben was not affordable to the average person.

1910

In the 1910s Ekiben began featuring local foods and began to appear all over Japan. The popularity of travel by train grew a long-distance movement forced people to travel on trains for extended periods of time. The old steam trains where slow and one could spend two to three hours commuting from one location to the next. As the trains stopped at stations commuters were hungry so it was quite common to see people winding down their windows to buy Ekiben from vendors selling their locally made lunch boxes.

1941

During the war in 1941 the Mori Train Station in Hokkaido launched an Ekiben that included stuffed squid with a small amount of rice that was simmered in a special sauce to make a hearty North Country treat. The meal became one of the most popular lunch boxes and is still extremely popular today.

1945

After the World War during the Showa era (1945), Ekiben continued to appear in stations all over Japan. The meals were enriched with local characteristics, using quality delicious ingredients. Ekiben was no longer exclusive and was accessible to all Japanese people. Thus, Ekiben with various characteristics of different regions started appearing.

1950

Late in the 1950s Japan was slowly recovering from their defeat and the middle class were enjoying a travel boom and Ekiben became extremely popular appearing at most major train stations across Japan. Ekiben were evolving with the times and competition was fierce.

Ekiben manufacturers were producing the best lunch boxes possible menu reflecting the staple foods of the specific region. Showcasing their regional specialities with fresh seasonal flavours to feed and provide fond memories to the many hungry tourists and travellers.

Ekiben types varied, most contained dishes that included anything from a simple meal to an elaborate gourmet affair. The visual appeal offered by these train Bento’s were mouth-watering, healthy and the content’s colourfulness was a treat to the eyes.

1970

In the 1970s television was accessible to most people and quickly became one of the most popular forms of entertainment of its time. In 1973 a widely popular drama television series,

Kitano Kazoku inspired an Ekiben that remains popular to this day the various ingredients have names reminiscent of characters in the drama. This spurred interest in regional Ekiben that we see today.

1987

Between 1987 and 2008 a boom in private car ownership and air travel began to make an impact on train usage and the number of Ekiben makers decreased significantly according to some data the figure dropped 50 percent.

2008

Ekiben reflects the different culinary traditions of different regions in Japan and are meant to be eaten on the train and include delicious food items prepared from top quality local ingredients.

Many train stations are becoming internationally recognised for their bento meals. Similar styles of railway bento meals have become popular in other East Asian countries, particularly Taiwan. Read more: Ekiben Bento (Train Bento).

2020

According to JR East, 2020 marks the 135th anniversary of the birth of the ekiben which was celebrated at the “Ekiben Aji no Jin 2020” (Ekiben grand prix 2020). Atarted by the East Japan Railway Co in 2012 as a way of promoting ekiben available at its stations, each of incorporates characteristics of their region. The boxed lunches sold at train stations or aboard trains is currently underway in eastern Japan. Voting to determine this year’s No. 1 ekiben. Ekiben shoppers can vote for their favorite out of the 65 kinds sold in the 15 prefectures under JR East’s jurisdiction.

The ekiben that claims the most votes will be awarded the title of “Ekiben Daishogun (Great ruler of ekiben).” Voters had the option of casting their ballot via postcard, which they was received at shops, in stations or at special sales events. Votes were accepted through the event’s official website (https://www.ekiben-ajinojin.com/) until November 30th, 2020.

Ekiben History Utsunomiya Train Station
Ekiben History Utsunomiya Train Station
In March 1972, Selling Ekiben At The Platform Of Otoineppu Station
In March 1972, Selling Ekiben At The Platform Of Otoineppu Station
Freddy Mercury Eating Ekiben
Freddy Mercury Eating Ekiben On Bullet Train During Japan Tour
Ekiben At Toyama Station
Sales Of Ekiben At Toyama Station In The Middle Of The Showa Period
Hitoyoshi Ekiben Yamaguchi
Interview In The Middle Of The Showa Period] Shobu Shobu (“Hitoyoshi Ekiben Yamaguchi” Salesperson, 75 Years Old)

Learn more about the Ekiben history at wikipedia.com or view the Ekiben Bento, Fascinating Train Bento Story.

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