Ekiben - A Box of Flavor and Feeling *RERUN
When going on a trip, packing a lunch box to take was the standard. In 1885, the first lunch box was sold at a train station. Called an "ekiben," there are now all kinds of them sold in stations all over Japan. The contents of the small ekiben lunch box reflect a place and a time, and are filled with the flavors of that region, the emotions of the person who made it, and the memories of a journey. We look at both the ekiben, much loved by Japanese people, and at a wonderful ekiben culture.

Sea Urchin Lunch Boxes in Iwate Prefecture's Sanriku

Sea urchin lunch boxes grew in popularity along with the Sanriku Railway after its opening in 1984. Made with feeling by a husband and wife team, the key to their deliciousness lies in the fresh local urchin used. It's placed carefully on top of rice cooked in urchin soup. The Sanriku Railway received major damage from the 2011 tsunami, but in April 2014, repairs will finish on the last section and the entire railway will be operational.

Mori Station's Squid with Rice in Hokkaido

Squid with rice, made by stuffing rice into a small squid and boiling it in a soy sauce based soup. The squid is full of flavor and puffy rice. The dish was created in 1941, during a time of food shortages, and soldiers who'd visited Hokkaido Prefecture brought stories of its deliciousness back to their hometowns after the war. Squid with rice is incredibly popular at events like ekiben fairs held in places such as department stores.

The Kareigawa Lunch Box in Kareigawa Station, Kyushu

Kareigawa Station boasts Kyushu's oldest wooden stationhouse. The local people stood up to preserve the station and its 110-year history when it was faced with destruction, and lunch boxes that the people create at the stationhouse the whole town bought are quite popular. The bounty of the soil is the star of the show, with locally grown products like thick shiitake mushrooms and delicious sweet potato.