Friday, January 4, 2013

Ekiben Matsuri (Train Bento Festival Store) at Tokyo Station

Ekiben (駅弁)are the "legendary" bento lunch boxes sold at Japanese train stations to feed you on the long train ride.  Ekiben and the Shinkansen bullet trains seem to be a very cool combination of food and transportation. The "eki" in ekiben means station and "ben" is short for bento.  Each train station or region in Japan has their own special bentos and part of the fun in traveling by train in Japan is the sampling of all the different kinds of local specialities in the different ekiben. Regions on the coast could have seafood delicacies and inland regions could have local vegetables and recipes.  Ekiben are super popular with the Japanese and if you're taking a train trip - get one for the road as they are affordable!
When I was in Tokyo I only travelled on a bullet train from Yokohama for like 12 minutes, but I did buy an ekiben one night at Shinagawa Station just to try it and it was pretty tasty with lots of different pickles and veggies.  I'd try something more meaty or rice-like next time I think.

In August of 2012, yet another wonderful store "Ekibenya Matsuri" opened in Tokyo Station.   This store is truly a festival of ekiben as they carry 170 types of ekiben from around japan.  That's a lot of choice and you can see the food models demonstrating what the different ekiben look like.

Their amazing wall display of the ekiben available.
A small selection of the fresh bento in their many fridges
I like ekiben as they look so pretty, taste good, and often have fancy packaging that resembles a wooden box even if it is only made out of styrofoam.  So even if you're not traveling outside of Tokyo you can stop here and pick an ekiben to try for lunch!  The store is located in the first floor in the Central Street mall area of the station (中央通路). It sells 170 different type of ekiben from all over Japan. It sells about 10,000 ekiben each day. Some ekiben are purchased by travelers transiting through Tokyo station while others are bought by Tokyo-ites bringing them home to enjoy.
A bento I chose.
Even have umi on rice in this assorted bento with pickles, veggies, meat and dessert.

Read about the Ekiben we had on our bullet train ride to Kyoto.

Access    Central Street on the first floor in the East JR Tokyo Station ticket
Address    JR Tokyo Station East ticket gate on the first floor in the No. 9, No. 1-chome, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Contact     03-3213-4352
Opening Hours    5:30 to 23:00

Maps to Tokyo Station in Japanese. They also show 1st Avenue with Character Street.

The map above shows the location of the Ekibenya Matsuri in the North Central Court on the main floor of Tokyo Station (zoom in or out to orient yourself).  Also note that you should visit 1st Avenue for amazing shopping of anime merchandise, more wonderful food, and even a selection of very popular ramen restaurants.  I previously blogged about this here.

Tokyo Station's Popular Ekiben
Why Are Ekiben So Popular in Japan?
Also at Tokyo Station is Gransta Dining with more ekiben shops such as Komezanmai 米米米 (triple rice) or Nippon no Ekiben ニッポンの駅弁 who also have wonderful ekiben. Gransta Dining is in the North Court on the first floor, close to North and Marunouchi Central Exit as well as Tohoku, Nagano, Jyoetsu Shinkansen gates.
Gransta Dining official site:

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Shopping and Dining at Tokyo Station, Kitte Marunouchi Building, and GranRoof
Tokyo's Ramen Streets at Tokyo Station, Aqua City, and Shinagawa Station
Ekiben Matsuri (Train Bento Festival Store) at Tokyo Station
Sweets Land, Character Street, and Ramen Street at Tokyo Station

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