Why Having Eki-ben on the Shinkansen Is Okay but Not Your Own Chinese Food

Recently, while on the shinkansen (bullet train) back from a business trip to Fukushima, I was resting my eyes after a tiring day when suddenly a strong waft of smell rushed up my nostrils and woke me up. I turned to the slurping sound behind and saw this Chinese guy slurping up his warm homemade noodles packed in a visibly durable glass container strong enough to be used as a weapon. The smell annoyed me for a moment and I started wondering if the other Japanese passengers were disturbed by it. And then I started thinking if there was some kind of limitations on the kinds of food that can be consumed on the train.

Understandably, no one said anything and neither was the guy stopped by any of the train staff. But I later found out about the three important factors in the creation of regular eki-ben lunchboxes sold at train stations, and the homemade Chinese food I breathed in definitely failed the checks.

First, the food must be able to be eaten with chopsticks. Second, it must not produce sound when eaten, which is why you don’t see noodles much. And third, it must not produce smell. That experience with the Chinese food guy was what led me to realize that I’ve never smelled food on the trains before despite so many people eating on it. Think about it. Even in-flight food doesn’t produce much of a smell to annoy the person next to you.

So, for the sake of the other passengers, please do not eat your home-cooked Chinese food on the trains.

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