I have recently started reading this really interesting gourmet manga called Ekiben Hitoritabi on JManga, a manga portal. JManga allows manga readers access to their mangas online using a point system. I purchase a certain number of JManga points with cash, and the points are deducted from my account whenever I buy a manga from the portal.
One can read the manga directly from JManga, or you can download the PDF onto your computer and read it using a PDF reader. I prefer the former. The manga loads quite quickly on my MacBook Air, but it doesn’t work on my iPad or my Windows-based notebook. I am not sure why, and I haven’t written to the website to find out. For the time being, I am happy to read mangas from my MacBook Air.
Ekiben Hitoritabi is a slice-of-life story about a 35 year old man called Daisuke Nakahara who travels around Japan by trains to eat bentos sold exclusively at train stations. Hence, the name “Ekiben Hitoritabi” – “ekiben” refers to “bentos sold at train stations” and “hitoritabi” means “travelling alone”.
Daisuke is a man who loves bentos and trains. He is a married man who runs a bento shop in Tokyo. On his tenth wedding anniversary, to fulfil his personal dream, his wife bought him a train ticket that allows him to travel around Japan by train. He makes it a point not to travel by shinkansen, as he wants to be able to enjoy the scenery through the windows of a normal-speed train.
Like most gourmet mangas such as Oishinbo, Ekiben Hitoritabi has enough food porn to send one’s saliva glands into overdrive. Aside from exquisitely drawn drawings of bentos and detailed explanations of the bento specialities in each Japanese prefecture, what I found interesting about this manga is that it provides some insights into the history of the Japanese train systems, and introduces the readers to the background of various trains that serve the country. Even though I am not a fan of trains, I found the trivia relating to the local, express and sleeper trains relayed by Daisuki in the manga fascinating.
That’s one of the good things about reading manga – it livens up alot of technical (and otherwise dull) stuff with beautiful drawings and simple explanations, and stimulates my interest in things which I might never have been keen to read about. Besides gastroporn and trains, the manga also includes drawings of paranomic views of Japan seen through the window of a train.
Reading this manga makes me want to do a Daisuke-style holiday, criss-crossing Japan on trains, eating delicious bentos found at train stations. This manga serves as a splendid train-travel guidebook, because it offers so much detail on which train station to stop at, what train to hop on, and it even provides train schedules so you know exactly what time a train arrives at and departs from a station. Knowing the Japanese to be sticklers for perfection, I am pretty certain that most of the train-related information in the manga should be fairly accurate.