The 5 best Japanese bentos to buy at Kyoto Station

These ekiben are a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

Our Japanese language reporter K. Masami loves the train station bento or “team” as they are known in Japan. Not only do these delightful food boxes evoke a sense of travel, but they also offer a rare chance to try exclusive specialties for certain regionsso Masami always takes an ekiben whenever he gets the chance.

The last six months had been particularly great for Masami, as he had been able to buy an ekiben from Kyoto Station once a week. This gave him extensive knowledge of what was available, so it was compiled a list of her top five recommendations for us, which are all around ¥1,000 ($7.20). If you’re passing through Kyoto Station, these are the top five ekiben to look out for, especially during the fall season.

Taste of autumn (¥950) by Awajiya

This special ekiben is only available until November 30, as the chestnuts, sweet potatoes and momiji (maple leaf) shaped carrots inside all have a very autumnal flair. Awajiya is a famous maker of exceptional ekiben in the Kansai region in and around Kyoto – other specialties they’ve produced include the JR Freight Container Bento – so you’ll never go wrong with any of their offerings.

▼ With takikomi gohan as the main dish here, along with a multitude of brightly colored side dishes, this ekiben is a feast for the senses.

Uzumasa Noriben (¥970) from Kyoto Bento Specialty Store Hokusai

Noriben is a classic bento for any day of the week and usually contains a few basic ingredients such as fried fish, bonito fish flakes and a sheet of grilled nori (seaweed). However, this noriben is an elegant one that includes some exceptional ingredients such as namafu dengakua Kyoto specialty made with wheat gluten and short grain mochi rice (top right picture in box below).

▼ Plus, the packaging has a nice old-school look to it.

Toritenju impregnated with the deliciousness of the local Omi soy sauce (¥790) by Nanyoken

“Tori” means “chicken”, “tenju” is a tempura boxed lunch, and this tempura chicken dish is topped with soy sauce made from Omi Province, known today as Shiga Prefecture. It’s not always sold at Kyoto Station, so if you see it, don’t miss the chance to try it. First of all, the price is reasonable and the prepared soy sauce is absolutely delicious, complementing not only the fried chicken but also the layer of minced chicken underneath.

Incidentally, the same company’s ‘Dashimaki and Beef Sukiju Kyoto Style’ (¥1,090) also deserves a shout out, as the dashimaki scrambled egg is light and fluffy, while the beef is soft and delicious .

Okame Bento (¥980) from Maneki Foods

The Okame Bento makes a big impact with the image of the okame – a smiling Japanese woman derived from the goddess of gaiety who brings happiness and good luck – on the bento cover.

It’s not just the outside that’s beautiful, as the inside is gorgeous too, with seasoned rice topped with conger, minced chicken and beef. It is a hearty meal, rich in flavor, that gives a sense of happiness with every sip.

Commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the opening of the “Reedited” Ekiben Railway

The last item on our list is a “reissued” ekiben, which reproduces the bentos of yesteryear, and there are nine types available to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the railways.

Companies like the aforementioned Awajiya, as well as Nanyoken, Maneki Shokuhin, and Abe Tottori-do, of “Crab Sushi” fame, have made bento boxes under the revamped theme with old-school packaging.

The retro designs on the boxes are beautiful, and customers who purchase these commemorative ekiben also receive a free commemorative plastic mini file while supplies last. Masami has only tasted the Awajiya version, but says it’s one not to be missed, especially if you’re nostalgic for the train journeys of yesteryear.

So there you have it – the top five ekiben to buy at Kyoto Station. All were purchased around 8:00 a.m Ekiben Nigiwai (pictured above) on the north-south passage at Kyoto Station, and according to the staff, there are even more bentos available just after lunch to cater to the lunchtime crowds.

It’s a great place to grab a cheap and cheerful meal while traveling through the area, and don’t forget you can also pick up a few tins of souvenir cookies for the journey home!

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