Ekiben (駅弁, railway boxed meals) are a specific type of bento boxed meals, sold on trains and train stations in Japan. They come with disposable chopsticks (when necessary) or spoons. Ekiben containers can be made from plastic, wood, or ceramic. Many train stations have become famous for their ekiben made from local food specialties (tokusanhin).
Ekiben were first sold in railway stations in the late 19th century, and developed at a time when meals on train were necessary during a long train journey. Sales of ekiben reached a peak in the 1980s, but declined as air travel became more popular and trains became faster.
However, numerous types of ekiben can still be purchased at stands in the station, on the platform, or on the train itself, some of which may be presented in unique containers that can serve as souvenirs for the travelers.
There many types of different ekiben available. These may be grouped into two major categories of ekiben: makunouchi-bento which is the standard ekiben available all over Japan, and typically features rice, grilled fish, fish cakes, pickles, and other standard elements; and regional ekiben that offers a wide variety of regional dishes unique to each specific region.