Release | nobu Kawashima
Discover the secret of “Ikameshi” - the famous Ekiben from Mori-machi
One of the most popular Ekiben from events all over Japan such as Hokkaido exhibitions or Ekiben events is “Ganso Mori-Meibutsu ‘Ikameshi’.” It was initially the iconic Ekiben of Hakodate Honsen Line Mori Station. The Ekiben is a long-seller product which came out in 1941. I visited the factory in Mori-machi to discover the secret of the natural yet flavorful bento box.
Table of Contents- What is “Ikameshi,” the iconic Ekiben of Mori Station?
- I visited the factory of “Ikameshi”!
- Visit here if you want to buy “Ikameshi”!
- Please visit Mori Station for Ikameshi one day
What is “Ikameshi,” the iconic Ekiben of Mori Station?“Ganso Mori-Meibutsu ‘Ikameshi’” (“Ikameshi” hereafter) is a piece of squid with stuffed rice (a mix of non-glutinous rice and glutinous rice) cooked in sweet and salty soup.
▲It is in the market from 1941 as a long-seller product in spite of the simple flavor.
“Ikameshi Abe Shoten” in Mori-machi located in southern Hokkaido manufactures and sells “Ikameshi.”
They have a factory near Hakodate Honsen Line Mori Station and manufactures “Ikameshi” almost throughout the year.
“Ikameshi Abe Shouten” was first involved in the hotel business. As Mori Station opened in 1903, they started station bento box (Ekiben) business at the platform. They were first selling Makunouchi Bento, etc.
At that time, the ocean around Mori Station had a great catch of squids. It is said that you could catch squids easily by just putting a drain into the sea and scooping it.
They wanted to make use of plenty of squids and created “Ikameshi.”
▲You won’t need chopsticks if you hold the toothpick. Being easy to eat was perfect for a light meal in trains.
It was easy to eat, filling, and delicious, so it didn’t take long to become a famous Ekiben. Many people bought Ikameshi every time trains stop at the station.
I visited the factory of “Ikameshi”!Many travelers fell in love with Ikameshi in the past, and now the bento box is popular in events all over Japan.
Why is it so delicious?
Are there any secrets?
To discover the answer to my questions, I visited the factory in Mori-machi to observe the manufacturing processes.
By considering the amount they produce, I thought “Ikameshi” uses machines and produced by assembly line operation. However, most of the processes were done manually by people’s hands.
I was astonished by the fact.
▲Remove bones and washes carefully one by one. I felt overwhelmed, but they are specialists. They wash squids very quickly.
▲Each squid has a different size, so they adjust the amount of rice according to the size of each squid. They hold the squid and decide how much amount of rice they stuff.
▲Closing the squid with a toothpick. It was very quick and finished in a second.
I thought they have already put flavors to squid and rice but at this moment, they do not put any seasonings.
Squids and rice are natural as it is.
Then they boil them and after that, cook with the hidden soup.
▲They can extract nice soup from squid by putting this much amount together in a pot.
▲Boiling slowly with the hidden soup.
▲The freshly made “Ikameshi.” These look extremely delicious!
In the end, they put “Ikameshi” in boxes after cooling them for a while. They normally put two pieces in a box, but they sometimes put three pieces if squids are small.
▲They pack and seal manually. Specialists seemed perfectly familiar with packing, and “Ikameshi” turn into finished products continuously.
▲They see the size and weight of squids and decide which ones to put together in a box instantly to make the content of each box about the same.
The secrets of deliciousness were: the way of cooking, the hidden soup, and the techniques of specialists who have manufactured Ikameshi for a long time.
They send staffs from Mori-machi to events all over Japan to produce Ikameshi in the same way they do at the factory. The traditional recipe and flavor are the same, and people can purchase freshly cooked Ikameshi at the events. It is a great point that we can enjoy the same taste no matter where we buy it.
Visit here if you want to buy “Ikameshi”!
▲The origin of “Ikameshi,” Hakodate Honsen Line Mori Station.
“Ikameshi” started as the Ekiben of Mori Station. However, most trains don’t stop for a long time at stations and windows of express trains don’t open, so it became difficult to sell Ekiben at platforms.
And the only store on the platform of Mori Station “Kiosk” shut up in 2018. We now can’t buy “Ikameshi” on the platform anymore.
Instead, you can buy Ikameshi at “Shibata Shoten,” a small shop in front of the station!
▲Shibata Shoten is in front of Mori Station. They sell Ikameshi throughout the year. (They close irregularly such as Sundays and new year holidays)
Shibata Shoten sells normal Ikameshi and vacuum-packed Ikameshi to stock for a long time, and Ikameshi flavored snacks.
It now became a touristic sight where travelers who use trains and people in the middle of a road trip stop by. If you are looking for “Ikameshi,” you should definitely visit “Shibata Shoten”!
▲The shop is very retro and has a nostalgic atmosphere.
Furthermore, they sell Ikameshi at the station platform around Obon holidays in summer!
Trains which stop at Mori Station is express trains which windows don’t open and stay at the station only for about a minute, and regular trains with one to two carriages.
Of course, they don’t sell a lot. However, “Ikameshi Abe Shoten” does this every year to keep the culture of Ekiben and pass that to the next generation. They don’t pursue sales for this activity.
▲The seller of “Ikameshi” on the station platform. They are called “Ekibon” by locals.
Although it is a short period of time, we feel nostalgic by seeing a person selling Ekiben on platforms.
It touches to the heart of a traveler, and it is heart-warming to see it. Those who are planning to travel by train, I wish you can encounter them at Mori Station.
Please visit Mori Station for Ikameshi one dayThe important market of “Ikamshi” shifted from station platforms to events all over Japan. Now you can purchase Ikameshi anywhere in Japan when the timing is right.
However, don’t you want to visit Mori Station one day and have Ikameshi there?
The looks and the flavor is the same, but you can feel the history of Ikameshi and the culture of Ekiben there. I am sure you will feel a lot more delicious.
▲Purchase Ikameshi at Shibata Shoten in front of Mori Station or “Ekibon” on Mori Station’s platforms!
Text, photo / Hokkaido Likers photo writer nobu Kawashima