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Should strong-smelling foods be banned from bullet trains?

17 Comments
By Dale Roll, SoraNews24

The bullet train is one of the greatest feats of modern transportation technology, but as fast as it goes, it still takes a good two-and-a-half hours to get between Tokyo and Osaka. Chances are, you’re going to get hungry before you arrive at your destination, and while eating on ordinary commuter trains is generally frowned upon, it’s not uncommon for business people to pick up a snack or an eki-ben, a station-specialty lunch box, for longer rides.

But there’s some etiquette to consider when eating on the bullet train. First and foremost, eating cleanly and tidying up after yourself is a must, and not causing trouble to other guests with the sound of your food packaging is also important. Similarly, it’s also considered bad manners to eat something with a strong smell, since the aroma could bother other passengers. In a country that sells low-smell Kentucky Fried Chicken to discreetly carry on the train, politeness concerning food is key.

For some bullet train passengers, however, it seems that calling it bad manners is not enough to discourage businessmen and women from eating fragrant foods. Instead, they are calling for a ban, especially of one particular target: the 551 Hourai Pork Bun, a steamed bun filled with spiced meat from Osaka, which is a local favorite and a popular train snack for commuters. These filling and tasty snacks have a meaty and sweet-salty smell, and are often eaten with Japanese spicy mustard, which adds to its pungent aroma.

According to opponents, there are lots of reasons why it’s impolite to eat smelly food: it can make other passengers nauseous, it may disturb the sleep of your neighboring passengers, and it might even make those who weren’t smart enough to pick up a snack before their departure hungry. But should the 551 Hourai Pork Bun be banned from the bullet train simply because it has a strong smell? Something that has an offensive smell, like fermented sushi, would be a bit more understandable. 

Some smelly foods have already been banned, like takoyaki, one of Osaka’s other famous cuisines made of octopus in fried balls of batter. It used to be the most popular bullet train snack, but owing to its distinctive smell, JR East initiated a rule in 2011 forbidding passengers to eat it. Other snacks and bentos sold at stations have stickers on them asking passengers to refrain from consuming them on the train, so it’s not unheard of for a particular food to be frowned upon.

Currently, however, JR East doesn’t have a policy on the 551 Hourai Pork Bun, and there’s no sticker requesting that passengers refrain from eating them. If someone makes a stink about it, train attendants may request that they put it away, but otherwise, at the moment, the 551 Hourai Pork Bun is a restriction-free food.

Will the voices against tasty train snacks be strong enough to force the 551 Hourai Pork Bun to meet the same fate as its predecessor? Only time will tell. But if so, supporters of the bun wonder where the line will be drawn. Will eating on the bullet train be banned altogether eventually? Let’s hope not, otherwise travelers may lose out on a lot of tasty food.

Source: Yahoo Japan News via Hachimakiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- The ultimate Shinkansen trip: Riding Japan’s bullet train network from one end to the other

-- Evangelion Shinkansen gets range of souvenirs, including its very own bullet train ekiben obento

-- Denim ice cream, burgers and steamed buns now on sale from Japan’s jeans capital

© SoraNews24

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
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I used the international terminal at Haneda for the first time and was amazed to see that they had a takoyaki stand with a handwritten sign saying "mochikomi ok!" (you can take it on the plane!). I'm not a photograph everything person, but was moved to take one and send it to my wife.

The Hourai buns are pretty smelly. The same stands sell gyoza too, which are worse. They are promoted as and people buy them as something to be taken home, so they won't necessarily be eaten on the train.

I did a return trip on a UK intercity train last year and it was noticeable that everyone, even middle class looking people, just left their garbage behind. It was pretty gross.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

What is needed more and more is tolerance.

If someone were cutting up and eating a whole dorian I would understand, but gyoza and nikuman?

Come on guys! Live and let live!

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I get annoyed when people eat McDonalds on the train. It reeks.

If someone were cutting up and eating a whole dorian I would understand, but gyoza and nikuman?

Gyoza is a pretty strong smell, very garlicy.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Some food, usually the fatty, greasy, fast food types, stink and should not be eaten on public transport. I think any strong smells, such as too much perfume and, the worst offenders, clothes that reek of over scented fabric conditioner, should be banned too. These artificial smells are known triggers for allergies and migraines.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

The people who get annoyed by such smells only do so because they wish they had the courage to eat it themselves! Lighten up, Japan. Way too much 'gaman' going on here

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

It’s a tough one, but blanket bans are never the answer

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It’s a question of simple manners to me. I think it’s just common courtesy to other passengers not to eat smelly food.

Dried squid smells absolutely rancid.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Hey, if these are like restaurants on wheels and people are allowed to and encouraged to eat, then encourage them to smoke as well, as that is what going to a restaurant is about here.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Never heard of these restrictions. Only once in ten years on Tokyo metro an older JP guy made a stink over the fact I was chewing gum.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not just on trains, but on airplanes as well. Smelly food on airplanes is even worse than trains for some reason.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I use to occasionally carry 551 Hourai butaman on the train from Namba to home (peace offering to my wife). The looks I got from some people suggested not so much that they disliked the smell but that it made them hungry. One guy suggested I share them around, but when I explained my life would be in danger if I went home empty handed, he nodded in understanding.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Tough one as scents are subjective. What's pleasant to some is close to unbearable to others. I personally can't stand kimchi's pungent smell.

Having said that i tend to agree with posters advocating 'common courtesy'. Eating your fav/smelliest curry, garlicky strifry, cheese, pate, fish & chips etc at the office or on trains is pretty selfish/discourteous.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The comments here are mixed - go for it or ban it since not everyone is courteous.

Some people have health issues with strong smells. Should they be forced to find other methods of transport for the convenience of someone else eating smelly foods?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Aaaaah the real important problem of modern society.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Let's see how long before various JR companies that run Shinkansen trains will require ekiben sellers to specifically label foods that are allowed on the Shinkansen. And the labeling has to be done in both Japanese and English.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

"Dried squid smells absolutely rancid"

I'd rather smell natto that has been in Dennis Rodman's sneakers for a day than smell dried squid.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Daikon......

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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