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The Wonderful Packed Lunches For Your Train Rides

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Japan is known for many phenomenon, may it be technology or culinary. One culinary phenomenon will be the bento or lunch box sets, seen very frequently in train stations for long distance travels.

The beloved ekiben—eki (station) and ben (bento)—were created specifically for long train journeys, some may say it is even an essential element for long-distance train travels. Eating in local commuter trains is looked down upon but travellers on longer rides, such as bullet trains, are encouraged to have an ekiben.

Every region has their own unique ekiben that is tied with local cuisine and culture. Stations have their own mecca of ekiben, stacks after stacks of neatly organised boxes that is constantly examined and moved by travellers.

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Ekiben is usually filled with various vegetables, meats and rice. All these are stuffed in colourful boxes that are decorated with scripts that mirrors nostalgia. Some of the meals are placed in limited edition boxes that are either a popular icon or painted with the arrival of a season.

These beloved boxed meals are also giving travellers furusato no aji or a taste of home. Travellers across the country rely on train station ekiben shops to purchase their meals for a particular trip and the shops usually has choices that are tied to the area they are in.

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Ekiben is also more than something you eat on a train ride, its is another way to experience a whole new locale. A particular region can have their specialty up for sale in the train stations ekiben shops. Choices such as grilled beef tongue from Sendai or crab rice from Hokkaido can be available as a boxed meal in their respective train stations.

The idea of ekiben wasn’t developed till 1885 at Utsunomiya Station, which consisted only of plum pickled rice balls. There weren’t any dining cars in train travel back in the days, so the boxed meals were sold either on the platforms or through the windows of the trains. Today, more than 2,000 kinds of ekiben are available which are usually sold by local family-run businesses.

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