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.

Month: June 2017

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.

© 2017 JEAN WANDERS