Ekiben are literally bento from different eki or stations in Japan. Part of the pleasure of traveling by train in Japan is sampling a variety of local foods sold in bento boxes at major stations throughout the country. A bento from a coastal village most likely will showcase locally harvested seafood while a mountain village may feature vegetables harvested from the region.
At Tokyo Station there is a shop specializing in bento called “Bentoya Matsuri”, or festival of bentos (photo of shop here). The shop just opened this August and is already very popular. It is located on the first floor in the Central Passage (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 Tokyoites bringing them home to enjoy.
Bentoya Matsuri recently announced the top selling ekiben based on the first two months of sales. It is interesting to note that five of the top six hail from the Tohoku region that was affected by the 3/11 triple disaster. Tohoku is renowned for its cuisine but this may also be a sign of consumers showing their support for Tohoku. The top six are here. Click on the bento name to see a photo if it’s not included.
1. Gyuniku Domannaka from Yonezawa in Yamagata 1,100 yen (Yonezawa beef)
2. Gokusen Sumibiyaki Gyutan Bento from Sendai in Miyagi 1,300 yen (grilled beef tongue)
3. Yonezawa Gyu Sumibiyaki Tokucho Karubi Bento from Yonezawa in Yamagata (Yonezawa beef)
4. Miyagi Ougonkaidou from Sendai in Miyagi 1,000 yen (anago, uni, scallop, salmon, and ikura)
5. Miyagi Umi no Kagayaki Benijake Harakomeshi from Sendai in Miyagi 1,000 yen (salmon and ikura)
6. Koshu Katsu Sando from Obuchizawa in Yamanashi 600 yen (tonkatsu sandwich – good even at room temperature)