Ekiben are special bento boxes for train travel. They are the traveller’s friend, and saviour of the non-Japanese-speaking tourist. Pop into any train station or supermarket and hunt through the shelves of refrigerated delights for something that vaguely looks like something you will eat.
The Japan Rail officer on the opposite platform performs a brief balletic ritual as the Shinkansen pulls away exactly on time. In precise and well-practised gestures, he ostentatiously points at his shining silver watch and then at the departing train with a white-gloved hand, signifying its timely departure. Apparently, all of the officers’ watches are synchronised. He gestures to the officers in front of and behind him along the platform. He points at his watch again with his index finger, reciting something aloud – I can’t tell what of course – but I imagine he is announcing proudly that another JR Shinkansen, that technological wonder of Japan, has departed bang on time.