If you just watched the first episode of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Mugen Train Arc yesterday, you may be drooling at the sight of those tasty bento box lunches Rengoku was eating. These are ekiben 駅弁, special boxed lunches available at train stations and often featuring ingredients from the station's area. Due to their popularity, the best-selling ekiben from around Japan can also be found in bento shops in major train stations.

But if you want to enjoy the taste of an ekiben in a more compact form, there's a new option in the form of "Ekiben-style Onigiri Series" 「駅弁風おにぎりシリーズ」, soon to be available at "NewDays" convenience stores and "NewDays KIOSK" and "Ekibenya" stores operated by JR East Japan Cross Station Co., Ltd.

Timed to coincide with "Railway Day" which is October 14th, three onigiri will go on sale in the first round of the series beginning tomorrow, October 12th, and until November 1st.

Thre three ekiben to be remade in onigiri form are as follows:

Representing Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture is "Domannaka Beef" (牛肉どまん中 gyūniku domannnaka), a beef bowl-style bento box with seasoned Yonezawa Wagyu in a mix of ground and stewed beef on top of Domannaka rice from Yamagata Prefecture. Representing Akashi in Hyōgo Prefecture is "Hipparidako-meshi" (ひっぱりだこ飯), a popular ekiben known both for its delicious taste and its unique ceramic pot packaging. Finally, not representing a specific region but just as popular nonetheless, is "Chicken Bento," (チキン弁当) a long-selling ekiben featuring kara-age fried chicken that has been enjoyed by both children and adults for over 50 years.

In April 2021, JR East Japan Cross Station Co., Ltd. merged with Foods Company which specializes in food manufacturing and the operation of ekiben shops. Leveraging this new strength, they were able to successfully negotiate with several ekiben companies to develop the "Ekiben-style Onigiri Series."

Ekiben-style Onigiri Series initial lineup

Let's take a closer look at these special onigiri.

Domannaka Beef 牛肉どまん中 Onigiri

This onigiri, inspired by the Domannaka Beef ekiben, brings together Domannaka rice produced in Yamagata Prefecture, and the unmistakable flavor of ground and stewed Yonezawa Wagyu cooked and seasoned with bento maker Shinkineya's secret sweet and spicy tare sauce. They paid close attention to the balance of flavors to reproduce it in the onigiri format.

Price: 300 JPY (including tax)

Hipparidako-meshi" ひっぱりだこ飯 Onigiri

Hipparidako ひっぱりだこ in Japanese means "popular person," from the image of an octopus being pulled by its legs in eight different directions. Inspired by the "Hipparidako-meshi" ekiben commemorating the opening of the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge linking Kobe and Awaji Island in 1998, this onigiri features seasoned rice cooked with conger eel and vegetables enveloping a boiled octopus filling. While the ceramic pot couldn't be featured, the contents have been carefully adapted to the onigiri format. The ingredients and their proportions were carefully selected and measured to earn bento maker Awajiya's seal of approval.

Price: 280 JPY (including tax)

Chicken Bento チキン弁当 Onigiri

This onigiri is inspired by the nationally famous "Chicken Bento" launched in 1964. The combination of Japanese style kara-age fried chicken and tomato-flavored rice has remained popular since that time and is a product that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Dried tomatoes in olive oil add just a hint of tartness for a delicious combination. Don't let the big morsel of kara-age drop when you eat it!

Price: 240 JPY (including tax)

Sales Locations

  • NewDays convenience stores *not available at some locations
  • NewDays KIOSK locations *not available at some locations
  • Ekiben-ya SAI: Ekiben-ya SAI Gransta Tokyo 駅弁屋 祭 グランスタ東京店, Tokyo Station, and 7 other locations
  • Ekiben-ya TAKUMI: Ekiben-ya TAKUMI Ecute Ueno 駅弁屋 匠 エキュート上野店, Ueno Station and 2 other locations
  • Ekiben-ya ITADAKI: Ekiben-ya ITADAKI 駅弁屋 頂 at Shinjuku Station and 2 other locations
  • Ekiben-ya UMAIMON: Ekiben-ya UMAIMON Ecute Omiya 駅弁屋 旨囲門 エキュート大宮店 at Omiya Station
  • others

Just based on these descriptions and these photos from their press release, you'll surely find yourself exclaiming "Umai!" (delicious) when you try them!

If you miss the first round, you can probably look forward to the second round featuring other popular ekiben-inspired rice balls from the same series.

By - Ben K.