On board meal option guide. How to use and buy the eki-ben, dining car and on board sales.

Sapporo beer and dried cheesy squid. I bought these items from on board sales in the limited express Super Hokuto, Hokkaido.

When you make a few hours trip by the train, you may need to eat or drink in the train. I will explain about a dining option in the train and some tips for eating and train on board in Japan in this post.

Dining car

Shimakaze cafeteria dining space (C) Oka21000 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The dining car is not very common option in Japan now. Because there is only one train which has the dining car opening for public. That is Kintetsu Railway limited express train, “Shimakaze” which runs between Nagoya, Kyoto or Osaka-Namba and Ise, Shima. This is not covered by JR Pass. Even Kintetsu Rail Pass does not cover this train, Shimakaze. This train is very very popular and it is very hard to book a seat even in weekdays.

There were many dining cars before but most of the common dining car services had been discontinued. There are some more trains which offers the dining service. But most of these trains are not a regular train. You cannot purchase a ticket for these trains at the ticket window. The ticket for these trains are sold in the travel agent only as a package tour. I do not explain about this type of trains in this post because most of the package tour are not sold online. You must visit a travel agent after you arrive in Japan. It is not a realistic choice.

The following trains have a small dining facility and it is open for all passengers. But these do not offer a full service dining car. You can buy a light meal and some kinds of drinks. The eating space is very limited of some trains on the list below.

  • SL Fuyu no Shitsugen (Kushiro – Shibecha)
    The beverage and bento are available at the lounge which is called Kirakira lounge.
  • Genbi Shinkansen (Echigo Yuzawa – Niigata)
    The beverage, cake and pastry are available at Cafe.
  • Koshino Shu*kura
    The beverage (especially the local Sake), appetizer, some snacks are available at the bar counter, “Kuramori”. This has the standing lounge.
  • Kairi (Niigata – Sakata)
    The beverage, appetizer and snacks are available at the shop.
  • Toreiyu Tsubasa (Fukushima – Shinjo)
    The beverage, appetizer and snacks are available at the lounge, “Yuagari Lounge”.
  • IZU CRAILE (Odawara – Izukyu Shimoda)
    The beverage, appetizer and snacks are available at the lounge.
  • Blue Symphony (Osaka Abenobashi – Yoshino)
    The beverage, appetizer and snacks are available at the lounge.
  • A-Train (Kumamoto – Misumi)
    The beverage, appetizer and snacks are available at the lounge, “A-Train Bar”.
  • Yufuin no Mori (Hakata – Yufuin, Beppu
    The beverage, snacks and bentos are available at the food service counter. Some of the train set do not have any eating space.
  • Aso Boy! (Beppu – Aso)
    The beverage and snacks are available at the cafe, “Kuro Cafe”.
  • Kawasemi Yamasemi (Kumamoto – Hitoyoshi)
    The beverage (especially the local Shochu), snacks and bentos are available at the service counter.
  • SL Hitoyoshi (Kumamoto – Hitoyoshi)
    The beverage (especially the local Shochu), snacks and bentos are available at the service counter.
A-Train bar on the limited express A-Train.

Most of the trains above are the seasonal operation train. It runs on weekend and the peak period only. These trains in the list above provide on board sales by the cart or the booth too.

Eat and drink at your seat

I bought the breaded deep fried pork bento at the department store nearby Tokyo station. I also added small appy food and Asahi Super Dry beer.

You can eat and drink at your seat. Alcohol beverage is allowed on board too. I will show you the meal options at your seat. The seat on the express train equip the table.

super hakuto ordinary
Very common express trains seat (C) Sonic Rail Garden

On board sales

The cart of on-board sales (C) Tennen-Gas [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

On board sales was very popular before. But most services had been discontinued in last few years due to the low demand. In these days, there are lots of stores in the stations. It has many more items than on board sales. Many passengers buy a food and drink before boarding.

Now this service is available on the Shinkansen trains and a few limited express trains as of December, 2019. On board sales offers a soft drink, alcohol (beer, Japanese sake, whisky), bento (box meal), sandwich, snack and souvenir available at on-board sales.

Please see the following information about the train which offers on-board sales currently.

The Shinkansen

On-board sales is still available on many Shinkansen trains. But it is not available on the Shinkansen lines/trains below:

The on-board sales will remain on Hayabusa, Hayate (the Tohoku Shinkansen between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori), Komachi (the Akita Shinkansen between Tokyo and Morioka), Tsubasa (the Yamagata Shinkansen between Tokyo and Yamagata/Shinjo), Toki (the Joetsu Shinkansen between Tokyo and Niigata). However only snack and drink will be available. You cannot get bento or other meals from the on-board sales.

The limited express trains

  • Super Azusa / Azusa / Kaiji (Shinjuku – Kofu, Matsumoto, Minami Otari)
  • Super View Odoriko (Tokyo, Shinjuku – Izukyu Shimoda, Atami)
  • Inaho (Niigata – Sakata segment only)
  • Hitachi (Shinagawa, Ueno – Katsuta, Takahagi, Iwaki)
  • Isaburo/Shinpei (Kumamoto, Hitoyoshi – Yoshimatsu)
  • Ibusuki no Tamatebako (Kagoshima chuo – Ibusuki)

On board sales may not be available on even above trains. Especially it is not offered in the early and the late departure trains.

The on-board sales will remain on the following trains. However only snack and drink will be available. You cannot get bento or other meals from the on-board sales.

  • Super Azusa / Azusa / Kaiji (Shinjuku – Kofu, Matsumoto, Minami Otari)
  • Super View Odoriko (Shinjuku – Izukyu Shimoda, Atami)
  • Inaho (Niigata – Sakata)
  • Hitachi (Shinagawa, Ueno – Katsuta, Takahagi, Iwaki)

Sightseeing train, seasonal train

These following train offers on-board sales by the cart or the booth in the train. These trains are operated as the sightseeing train and the items are limited. You may get only beverage and snack. The bento box and a regular meal may not be available. However you can purchase local items, such as a craft beer, local Sake, local cuisine. Most of trains runs as the seasonal operation. Please make sure the operation date before on board:

  • Resort Shirakami (Akita – Hirosaki, Aomori)
  • Resort Minori (Sendai – Shinjo)
  • Resort View Furusato (Nagano – Minami Otari)
  • Oykot (Nagano – Tokamachi)
  • SL Ginga (Hanamaki – Kamaishi)
  • Pokemon train with you (Ichinoseki – Kesennuma)
  • Hanayome Noren (Kanazawa – Wakura Onsen)
  • Belles montagnes et mer (Takaoka – Himi, Johana)
  • SL Yamaguchi (Shin Yamaguchi – Tsuwano)
  • Marumaru no Hanashi (Shin Shimonoseki – Higashi Hagi)
  • La Malle de Bois (Okayama – Uno, Kotohira, Onomichi)
  • Ametsuchi (Tottori – Izumoshi)
  • Hayato no Kaze (Yoshimatsu – Kagoshima chuo
  • Umisachi Yamasachi (Miyazaki – Nango)

Please see the list of “Dining car” above too. The train which has a dining facility offers on board sales too.

Private railway’s train

On board sales is available on some private railway trains too.

  • Toby Railway limited express Spacia and Revaty, SL train Taiju
  • Odakyu Railway limited express (see more information in Odakyu Railway official site)
  • Kintetsu Railway limited express Urban Liner, Ise Shima Liner, Blue Symphony, Shimakaze
  • Fuji Kyuko Railway limited express Fujisan View

On board sales may not be available in early and late departure trains.

The eki-ben

Many kinds of the eki-ben at the eki-ben store in Hakata station

The “eki-ben” is a bento box which is sold in the station and it is very popular food on board. “Eki” means station and “ben” means a bento box (Japanese style box meal). There are huge numbers of the eki-ben available in Japan. Most of the eki-ben includes some local items, such as salmon in Hokkaido, beef tongue in Sendai. You can find some local favorite items in the eki-ben.

If you want to taste a local favorite, the eki-ben is highly recommended.

I recommend you to get the eki-ben before on board. If the train has on board sales, you may find it there but the number of items is very limited because it is sold by a small cart. If you look for the eki-ben in the major stations, like Tokyo, Shin-Osaka, you can find the eki-ben shops easily. You can find the shop both inside and outside the ticket gate. You can find the booth even on the platform. Some of the eki-ben stores have more than 100 kinds of items.

The eki-ben store in Shin-Osaka station
The eki-ben store in Tokyo station
The eki-ben store in Tokyo station

I would like to show you some eki-ben which I have had before.

Grilled beef tongue bento at Sendai
Local chicken on the rice bento at Shin-Osaka station
Chesnuts sticky rice bento at Shin-Osaka station
Beef on fried rice bento at Shin-Osaka station

The convenience stores and kiosk

Deep fried chicken bento at 398 yen in the convenience store.

In these days, there are lots of the convenience stores in the station. You can find a common bento box, sandwich, bread, rice ball and appetizers.

Pork cutlet sandwich, salmon rice ball and coffee at 500 yen

The average price is cheaper than the eki-ben. Many convenience stores sell various alcohol beverages too. You can buy beer, wine and/or Sake with food.

The shopping mall and the department store

Deli food section in Daimaru department store in Tokyo station

The shopping mall and/or the department store are usually located nearby the major stations. Usually these stores have delis on the first floor or underground floor. You can find many kinds of fresh cooked foods there.

Actually I love this way. There are lots of items and you can buy the items by the piece.

Deep fried items in showcase. The price range is 100 to 200 yen per item.
Many kinds of rice balls and small deli packages

Of course you can bring the items in the train unless it is very smelly.

Please do not forget to take a yummy food and enjoy the ride with Japanese food experience.

30 thoughts on “On board meal option guide. How to use and buy the eki-ben, dining car and on board sales.”

  1. Are food and/or snacks available for sale within Limited Express Super Hakuto trip from Tottori to Osaka ? I am planning to go back to Tottori to finally visit the Tottori Sand Dunes Conan Airport and go back to Yura Station / Gosho Aoyama Manga Factory but my itinerary will be too tight if I would want to go back to Osaka within the same day. Just planning ahead for my food during dinner time.

    Thank you in advance for your assistance!

    FYR – My visit will be by the end of January 2020.

  2. Hello Takeshi
    Since I’ve never been on shinkansen before, so please kindly let me know…
    1. After finishing my ekiben, do I have to bring the empty box with me when I get off the train, or I can just leave it there on my seat.
    2. This is not about ekiben … if I have to transfer to another shinkansen, do I have to get out the ticket gate and get in again, or I can just walk to another platform.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Yotchan,

      1. There are trash boxes by the train entrance door. You can trash it there.

      2. No, you don’t need to. Just move to another platform. Sometimes the train depart from the same platform. Check the departure information board when you get there.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Aloha,

    I will be visiting from Hawaii in two months and am wondering if I can purchase my own bento and alcoholic beverage to consume on the shinkasen? This would just be for a two hour trip I am planning.

    Thanks, Nate

  4. This is great to read when I’m on the train at the beginning of a 4hr trip and have nothing to eat or drink at all. I have always used on board sales and vending machines and my ticket even came with a “drink coupon” that I assumed was for use onboard. I’m annoyed that there was no information communicated by JR Tokai Tours or at the station about this. Perhaps let people know in real life too and not just online

  5. Hi Takeshi san,

    Can i check the opening hours for the sales of ekiben in nagoya station as we’re going to catch a 0737hrs hikari from nagoya station to maibara station to Kanasawa station then to Toyama. So was thinking where should we get our tummies filled if we cannot get any ekiben from nagoya station as its early and we’re rushing to catch the train too.

    Regards
    Steve

    1. Hi Steve,

      I’m not sure what time ekiben stores are open in Nagoya station. However I’m sure that many convenience stores in Nagoya station are open from 5:30 am. You can get something to eat there.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi-san,

    I was wondering, could you list the seasonal trains that can be booked with JR Pass (not package tour) and have special bento boxes that can be purchased on the train without package tour? e.g. Hanayome Noren

    1. Hi Russell san,

      As far as I know, the following trains offers special bento box or on board meal and those are covered by JR Pass.

      Kira Kira Uetsu (Niigata – Sakata)
      Okuizumo Orochi (Kisuki – Bingo Ochiai)
      ○○ no Hanashi (Shimonoseki – Higashihagi)
      Hanayome Noren (Kanazawa – Wakura Onsen)
      Belles montagnes et mer (Takaoka – Himi or Johana)
      Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari (Tadotsu – Oboke)
      Iyonada Monogatari (Matsuyama – Yahatahama)
      Hayato no Kaze (Yoshimatsu – Kagoshima Chuo)

      Advanced booking is required for special on board meal on all trains other than Kira Kira Uetsu.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Oh my gosh Takeshi-san you’re amazing!! Thank you so much haha 🙂

        Out of curiosity, how do you do the advanced booking for the Hayato no Kaze? Thank you!

          1. Hi Takeshi-san,

            Thank you! I will take note. By the way, out of curiosity, can you also list the “joyful trains” that must be purchased from View Travel Center and cannot use tickets for? Thanks ;D

            1. Hi Russell san,

              Fruitea Fukushima
              Tohoku Emotion

              These two trains ticket cannot be purchased at Midori no Madoguchi. However there are many other trains which have special travel package, such as Izu Creile. I cannot list up because there are too many. And also you cannot use JR pass to use this type of trains. That means you may consider to take Non JR trains too. In these days, Non JR train companies have special trains too, like “Sekigetsuka” on Echigo Tokimeki Railway, “Shimakaze” on Kintetsu railway. It’s too many to list up. Probably there are some trains which I don’t know.

              Cheers,

              Takeshi / JPRail.com

            1. Hi Russell san,

              It’s available for tour package only.
              I understand there are language barrier. But please do not ask me to translate. Because if I do it, I have to do it whenever the readers ask me.
              Sorry but please understand.

              Cheers,

              Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. I awill be travelling on the Hida 9 Wide View Ltd Express from Nagoya to Takayama. Will there be onboard sales so that I can buy lunch?

  8. Hi Takeshi, can you actually eat outside food inside a JR train? For instance, I plan to buy bento in 711 or FamilyMart then eat it inside the train while I am on a long trip (more than 1 hour trip).

    Cheers
    Zikha

  9. I will be visiting Japan in May but cannot find any formal sites that explain on-board service. I’m trying to work out if its worthwhile to travel first (green) class or not. Apart from slightlty bigger seats, do first class passengers get any complementary food or drinks on board?

    Thanks!

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