Ever since I read Ekiben Hitoritabi, the food manga about a train enthusiast who went travelling around Japan to eat the various bentos sold at Japanese train stations, I have been wanting to do an ekiben trip myself someday.
Like Oishinbo, Ekiben Hitoritabi is an interesting food (and also train) manga where an English translated version should be in print. But sadly, this is not currently available in either print or digital format. I bought the English digital format on JManga, an online manga website, some years ago and enjoyed reading it so much. Pity that JManga has shut down and all the digital mangas distributed by them also bit the dust with the business closure. I am just glad that I had the chance to read this manga once, in English. I am hoping that someone will license it for distribution again some day.
My recent trip to Japan involved quite a bit of travelling around on the Shinkansen and other JR trains, and I looked forward to eating ekibens during my train rides. Choosing an ekiben from the display sets at the ekiben shop was a lengthy exercise, albeit a very pleasant one. I felt like an excited child standing in a candy store with too many choices and limited resources. There were so many ekiben options to choose from! I would decide on one because I liked the food, then change my mind because I liked the shape of the box in another set, then change my mind again because the food in another box looked more delicious. The indecisiveness lasted all the way till it is time to dash to the platform to catch the train.
I had so much difficulty photographing the ekibens on the trains. These photos did the food no justice at all! I used my iPhone ‘cos it was too inconvenient to use the DSLR when seated in the train. Also, I felt terribly self-conscious taking so many photos of my ekibens, especially when a stranger was seated right next to me.
I enjoyed all my ekibens, some more than the others. My favourite one is the anago sushi (top left, first collage), which is rather surprising given that I am not a big fan of sushi. That was my first ekiben on this trip, bought at the Shin-Osaka station where I was taking the train to Fukuoka. Perhaps I was too hungry then, ‘cos the sushi tasted incredibly delicious.
I bought the cute Shinkansen ekiben in Fukuoka. I was usually too late on most mornings to get a set at the Hakata train station but managed to grab the last piece on my second last day in the city.
The Hida ekiben bought at the Takayama JR station is another cutie. By then, I had already eaten Hida beef thrice for dinner at the ryokan where we stayed at in Takayama, and was feeling a little jaded by the rich, buttery meat. But I could not resist the Hida ekiben and its bright red colour. I contemplated bringing the Hida ekiben container home, but I received such a fierce glare from the husband when I suggested this, I promptly dropped the idea.
These ekibens were so much fun for me and my husband.