JEAN WANDERS

"Not all those who wander are lost."
- J.R.R. Tolkien
Live to explore the many wonders of the world and let it define your destiny.

Suzukien: 7 Levels of Matcha Goodness

If you are a lover of matcha, then Asakusa’s Suzukien should definitely be on your list. Not only they offer various teas but recently in 2016 they have collaborated with Nanaya – a brand that specializes in sweets. Today, you can enjoy your matcha in a whole new level. Scaling their matcha gelato from No. 1 (mildest) to Premium No. 7 (STRONGEST in the world), you will surely have the best matcha gelato experience ever, just like me.

Located just a few minutes from Asakusa Station, access to the shop is pretty easy. However, the shop is nearby the well-known Sensoji Temple so one would expect a long queue. But apparently the shop and the waiting area is separated as indicated in a map outside the shop. Just be patient in following the direction though. My friends and I got nearly lost looking for it. Better take a photo of the map (always a wise choice) before going to the waiting place.

Once you are at the waiting area, you will be welcomed by their staff and they will put your name on the waiting list which for our part took almost thirty minutes to be called.

Seats and free tea and water are available for customers while waiting. I guess queuing in Japan is certainly convenient since services are provided quickly so you rarely get bored waiting. So, once your name or number is called just like what we got since we are foreigners, they will hand out ID pass which will be used to enter the shop. Now, you are set to go back and have that matcha you love to try.

Getting in the shop was for me very overwhelming. You will be greeted by those tempting color gradation of matcha which is literally mouth watering. The level starts from the left labeled as level 1 up to the farthest right which has the darkest shade labeled as level 7 which is the strongest matcha ever. I felt like wanting to have a taste of every flavor displayed in the freezer . Besides the different level of matcha, they also have other gelato flavors offered to balance the taste of the matcha.

Their menu shows the choices you can have for your matcha. My palate made me choose a combination of the lightest shade No. 1 and intensely-flavored matcha No. 7. The mild flavor of number one balanced the premium strong number seven. You can taste the sweetness of the milk, texture was soft and of course with a slightest kick of that number seven flavor.

Also, you can choose either a cup or a cone.

Whether you are a matcha lover myself or someone with a sweet tooth, then this one is for you.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

French Formal Garden

A normal weekend living in Tokyo would often involve shopping, spending time at a café and taking a stroll or a picnic at the park. The latter has been always my choice as a nature lover myself. However, one would ask which place is ideal for such an activity. Worry no more because Tokyo has a numerous lists of parks and most of them are situated just at the heart of the metro.

Checking the parks lists online I realized I have never been in most of the parks listed other than Yoyogi Park, Futakotamagawa Park, Mizumoto Park and Rikugien Garden which was quite close to my place. The one that struck me the most is Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden located just a few minutes from Shinjuku JR Station. For a year and three months I have never gotten the chance or even the idea to visit this park.

Originated during the Edo Period as a residence of the Naito Daimyo clan, soon after it was transformed into a botanical garden. Later in 1903, it was transferred to the Imperial family who utilized it for recreation and entertainment venue for guests. After WWII, it was rebuilt and reopened to the public in 1949. This park covers 58.3 hectares so you could you just imagine the vastness of the area. Three different gardens comprise the park; the English Landscape, French Formal, Japanese Formal (teahouse) and Mother and Child.

Being known for its 1500 cherry trees (sakura trees) which is a perfect venue for its annual “hanami” viewing it never came to my mind to actually visit this park during such event. Its popularity among visitors is evident in the amount of images uploaded in various social media sites varying from each four seasons.

So, how did I really end up going to this park?

After a typical weekend lunch with my friends on a Saturday at one of the many busy restaurants around Shinjuku area made me decide to check the place since the weather was perfect for a stroll too. What is even surprising was we got in for FREE! Yes, you read that right. We did not bother to ask why and just went in immediately (just got lucky). The park that day was not that crowded mostly families were there and the view was too beautiful that I could not even think of a word to describe it. It was relaxing and undoubtedly refreshing for us since we all had a busy week at work. Perfect weekend indeed.

Walking through the different sections of the park, you can see various types of trees, ponds and bridges. But what I like the most was the French Formal which offers different types of roses. Most likely if you plan to visit the park, make sure to have a camera with you. Every area deserves to be captured. The serenity of the park will definitely leave you in awe. Either by just strolling the entire park, having picnic with family and friends or just simply relaxing under the shade of those gigantic trees, this park is truly worth a try. If you want to get rid of those negative energy from work stress or school project deadlines, the park will surely give you the break you need.

The park is open from 9:00 AM- 4:30 PM every day with an admission fee of 200 yen for 15 years old and over, 50 yen for 6-14 years old while its free for 5 years and below. However, when Monday falls on a national holiday, Tuesday is closed for visitors. Access to the park is very convenient since there are three gates leading to the park – Shinjuku Gate (JR Shinjuku Station), Okido Gate (Shinjukugyoenmae Station) and Sendagaya (JR Sendagaya Station).

We ended the day having coffee at a nearby Starbucks café close to Shinjuku Station. So, if you want to unwind and experience solitude without leaving Tokyo then this park is a best choice for you.

Coldplay in Tokyo

Wish granted.

Did you ever experience that feeling of extreme euphoria? That was the exact definition of my first ever Coldplay concert experience here in Tokyo, Japan. It took me a week to finally get the idea sink in my brain. Every memory of the concert was surreal even up to this time I’m writing this post.

Well, most of you may wonder “Why”?
Here’s why.

Back in my teenage days, I was already been a Coldplay fan. Raised in a country where every one loves music, I came to recognize my preferred genre of music. I love the sound of instruments all working harmoniously, so I inclined my taste for music on bands. My fascination towards bands made me appreciate the unique sound of Coldplay. So, right there and then, I promised myself that I must be able to see their concert. Little did I know, it will be realized after 14 years and in my favorite country – Japan. What a surprise!

So, the moment Coldplay announced their A Head Full of Dreams Asian tour, I knew that it was a sign. I told myself, this is it! But I lose the chance when I found out that tickets were all sold out, as expected. I was depressed. I failed. It’s over. Not until the day of the concert came. Me and my friends decided to go to the venue (Tokyo Dome) to take photos just to give ourselves that Coldplay concert vibe. It was a long queue. All of a sudden, one of my friends said let’s watch it the moment she saw concert staff selling tickets. Yes, there were still tickets. Quickly, we purchased three tickets and rushed inside the venue like excited kids. Finally, my dream will now be realized.

Inside, the crowd was amazing. I was speechless. It was like my heart is coming out my chest. I thought it was a dream. Looking at the crowd’s faces, I knew I wasn’t alone with that feeling. When the members of the band came out of the stage, I was screaming at the top of my lungs shouting Chris Martin’s name. Why wouldn’ t I right? Most of the songs sang were all of my favorites. There wasn’t a single song that I didn’t sing along. For two and half hours I was in cloud 9. To all Coldplay fans out there, being in a Coldplay concert is one for the books experience you shouldn’t miss in your lifetime.

I will end this article with a line of one my favorite Coldplay song – Fix You.
“If you’ll never try, you’ll never know.” Check that next Coldplay concert near you and share your experience by commenting on this post below.

It’s All About the Seasons

Flowers. Beach. Falling leaves. Snow. A typical description of the different seasons of the year. But growing up in a tropical country, this has been never my case. In Philippines every day is suhrojmmer so it made me wonder how it feels like if we have four seasons in a year. Thus, my bucket list of visiting or perhaps living in a foreign country has entirely been inclined to the idea of experiencing the varied seasons.
So when I got the offer of working in Japan, I never had any second thoughts and accepted it right away. Finally, this is it!

Summer

A very familiar vibe for me. Sweat and the ever humid atmosphere certainly what this season has to offer. I thought I’ll manage it after living in Philippines all my life. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Japan’s summer is literally HOT! I even asked myself, “Where is the wind in this city?”. Since I’m in Tokyo, buildings seems to trap the heat and block the wind so it wasn’t breezy after all. It’s dry that I often suffer from a dry throat which is bothersome for my job as a teacher. Solution – drink lots of water. So vending machines come in handy for this weather.

As a general thing to do, going to the beach is what we usually associate summer with, but not here. Japanese beaches are situated quite far and mostly it’s too crowded. Also, it is not as blue or clean enough to swim (no offense to Japanese, just an observation) which is quite too sad. Me and my friends managed to visit a beach on the southern part of Japan but to our surprise, the beach was less crowded but what bothered was the color of the water. Thus, we decided not to plunge in the water. Fortunately, we had other option of just sunbathing. Still not a bad summer experience though.

Autumn

Favorite season so far. Bright orange and flaming leaves decorating parks and mountains will leave anyone in awe of its beauty. The sight simply makes you want to be poetic. When I first caught sight of the leaves’ transformation, I instantly thought nature is definitely an art- beautiful and magical. The view is mesmerizing that I couldn’t leave my eyes off the trees.

I enjoyed the whole experience with my friends by visiting parks and Mt. Takao to try our luck but only a few leaves changed at that time. But the view from the top was so serene that it took my breath way. It is particularly distinct in Japan to have that perfect autumn view due to its preserved number of parks and mountains. An act worthy to be emulated by other countries.

Winter

The season that most of my countrymen want to experience ever since. With a humidity like that of the Philippines, one would definitely wonder what it feels like waking up with a temperature below zero. I wasn’t an exemption to that. Television and movies gave me that vivid image of a snowcapped mountain and streets covered with white powder, I instantly added experiencing snow to my bucket list. Why not?

When I finally step out of the plane February 23rd of 2016, I instantly got a freezing welcome which was so surreal. I was so excited, excited to wear those winter clothes and to see my breath reflected in the cool air. All those expectations were met early this year. The company I’m working gave us a ski trip in Gunma which was another first for me. The feeling of the snow on my hand was indescribable. It was painful after a few minutes though which made me doubtful if my fellow countrymen will ever survive it.

So many fun activities enjoyed in this season but probably I just don’t have that much skill in doing so for now. Better have it at the end of this year. I will share it on my blog for sure.

Spring

Only one word comes to mind – flowers. In Japan’s case, Spring has always been anticipated by both locals and international tourists. If you happen to be familiar with cherry blossoms (sakura) then you know what I’m talking about here. The fleeting beauty of sakura creates that magical feeling to the season. No wonder I fell in love with it.

However, it isn’t only about amazing selections of blooming flowers, it is also during this season that most people here in Japan experience “pollen allergy” which causes discomfort on their day to day tasks. So, obviously most of those who are sensitive to it wears masks which is an ideal thing to do. Therefore, expect people with masks on the first week of this season. Usually, I refer them as “ninjas”.

Nevertheless, this season offers a refreshing start for me especially after the winter season. It makes you want to look forward to another spring experience. Next year again?

What I have learnt from dating a Japanese guy?

Dating has been quite hard for most of us especially when living in a foreign country. You have to deal with culture differences and sometimes get a bit stressed with language barrier. Certainly, there are number of reasons to be skeptical about when it comes to dating – but not for me.

When I first landed a job in Japan last year it never came to my mind that I would be dating a Japanese guy. Probably because I’ve read some unfortunate stories about it. When you read these stories most likely you will start making prejudices. But along the way, these prejudices change. We learn to accept and understand these differences equally with ours. So, what’s it really like dating a Japanese guy?
Continue reading

« Older posts

© 2017 JEAN WANDERS