If you watched the Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Mugen Train Arc, you may have been drooling at the sight of those tasty bento box lunches Rengoku was heartily feasting on while shouting 旨い!Umai! (Delicious!) at nearly every bite. 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 sometimes be found in bento shops in major train stations.

An alternative is to wait for an ekiben matsuri, a special limited-time event where a multitude of ekiben will be available. Fortunately for bento lovers, one is coming up soon.

Bento makers Nihonbashi Daimasu Ltd. will hold the "Ueno Station Ekiben Matsuri*” at Ueno Station on the weekend of January 29th and 30th, 2022. The event will be held at a special venue on the Grand Concourse outside the Central Gate.

*In this case, 祭りmatsuri is used metaphorically, as it has less in common with the traditional Japanese festivals involving shrine palanquins paraded through the streets and more in common with the festive food stalls, or by extension, as it is used here, a collection of specialty products available for a limited time.

In recognition of the current spike in infections due to the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, Nihonbashi Daimasu has teamed up with the ネットでエキナカ “Net de Echinaka" online shopping site to allow customers to pre-order their ekiben and pick them up quickly and efficiently at Ueno Station during the event. By doing so, they hope to improve “safety and security,” reducing crowds while ensuring that customers will be able to purchase the products they want without fail (while supplies last).

Please note that some products may not be available due to traffic and weather conditions.

Advance reservations can be made on the website or by phone, and there will also be on-site sales for those who haven’t reserved.

Here’s just a small sample of their tasty-looking lineup!

チキン弁当 Chicken Bento

  • Manufacturer: Nihonbashi Daimasu (Tokyo Station)
  • Price: 900 JPY
  • Note: Although it isn't particularly Japanese, this bento has been a favorite, especially with kids, for over 50 years. Ketchup-flavored rice, scrambled egg, karaage chicken, green peas and cheese creates a combination sure to please...

ワインのめし Wine no Meshi

  • Manufacturer: Marushō (Kōfu Station)
  • Price: 1,500 JPY
  • Note: This bento uses a play on words for its name. On the one hand, it means “wine meal” but it’s also homophonous with the local Kōshū dialect for ワインを飲めし meaning “you should drink.” It features foods from Japan’s “wine country,” Yamanashi. Packed into the compartments of this bento you'll find dishes like Fujisakura pork katsu sandwich, charcoal-grilled wagyu yakiniku with white wine sauce, marinated Kōshū salmon, mushroom and shrimp al ajillo and Kōshū teriyaki chicken.

峠の釜めし Tōge no Kamameshi

  • Manufacturer: Ogino-ya (Yokogawa Station)
  • Price: 1,100 JPY
  • Note: One of Japan's most popular ekiben, this venerable meal has been served for over 60 years and comes in a clay pot. You'll find a good variety of ingredients like seasoned chicken, quail egg, chestnuts, bamboo shoots, burdock root, shiitake mushrooms, green peas, pickles, and dried apricot.

ひっぱりだこ飯 Hipparidako-meshi

  • Manufacturer: Awajiya (Nishi-Akashi Station)
  • Price: 1,080 JPY
  • Note: This famous bento featuring octopus, conger eel, and seasonal vegetables is packaged in a special clay pot made to look like one of the barrel-shaped octopus traps traditionally used in Japan. The name hipparidako-meshi comes from the Japanese expression 引っ張りだこ hipparidako (lit. "pulled octopus") likening someone so popular that they continually receive invitations and offers to an octopus being pulled in different directions.

鯵の押寿し Aji no Oshizushi

  • Manufacturer: Ōfunaken (Ōfuna Station)
  • Price: 980 JPY
  • Note: This sushi-lovers' bento features a type of sushi called 押寿し oshizushi (lit. “pressed sushi”) featuring subtly marinated horse mackerel. It goes great with a cold beer or glass of sake.

銀だら幕之内 Gindara Makunouchi

  • Manufacturer: Nihonbashi Daimasu (Tokyo Station)
  • Price: 1,380 JPY
  • Note: This bento prominently features 銀鱈 gindara or sablefish, served grilled and seasoned with a yuzu-miso sauce. You'll also enjoy omelet, kamaboko fish cakes, pickled eggplant, fried chicken with yuzu pepper seasoning, along with soy-mirin seasoned assorted vegetables (butterbur, burdock, carrot, shiitake mushroom, lotus root, pumpkin, peas, konnyaku and taro root).

Product images are for reference only. All prices include consumption tax.

Outline of "Ueno Station Ekiben Matsuri"

  • Date: Two days from January 29 (Sat.) to January 30 (Sun.), 2022
  • Location: Special venue on the Grand Concourse outside the central ticket gate of JR Ueno Station
  • Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Products: 41 ekiben meals in total (subject to change due to weather and traffic conditions)
  • Reservation period: Until January 25th, 2022
  • To reserve: Special page on the Net de Ekinaka ネットでエキナカ online shopping site (Japanese only)

By - Ben K.