If Shiori worked for an ekiben company, she’d win the gold medal hands down.
As for the tasty treat that landed the title of top lunch, I’ll let the article and its colourful photo gallery of mouth-watering meals give you the result.
Fans of these convenient, highly portable and (often) reasonably priced boxed lunches might be sceptical of the awards considering that they’re based on sales figures – rather than presentation, variety, nutritional content and so on – but I wouldn’t dismiss the competition off-hand. After all, the winners were judged by thousands of hungry commuters voting with their wallets. When it comes to choosing the ekiben I’ll take with me on my next train journey, I’d rather have their opinion than that of a panel of professional judges.
Now the next time you buy an ekiben, think twice before binning the wrapper. The Asahi Shinbun tells the story of an enthusiastic railway traveller whose archive of about 6,000 ekiben wrappers is a veritable picture-book of modern Japanese history, from the pre-war era to the present day. The collector, Uesugi Tsuyoshi, has written a book on ekiben and also runs a popular website that showcases ekiben from different parts of the country. (The Asahi Shinbun article didn’t have a link to the site, but a couple of minutes of Googling allowed me to track it down: here’s the main page. Even though all of the entries are in Japanese, the site has an index page in English to help foreign visitors get started.)
Finally, here are a couple of images illustrating my first ekiben encounter: a 1,000-yen boxed lunch purchased from Tokyo Station on 30 March 2009.
The most delicious part: those dessert beans in the middle-right compartment. My mouth is watering right now from just remembering their delicate sweet flavour.
But I’d strongly recommend avoiding that gangrenous purple lump in the compartment right above them. The taste of that foul beast has scarred me for life.