もんじゃ焼き (Monjayaki)

This dish, as far as I know is typical in Tokyo. Basically you cook chopped ingredients into a batter and you fry them in a circular shape. It is similar to Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) but the difference is that the batter is runnier and sticky and it doesn’t cook completely.

Usually people eat Monjayaki, also called ‘Monja’ alone in specialized places. In some restaurants they have both Okonomiyaki and Monjayaki.

In Tokyo, there’s a place called Tsukishima (月島) that is famous due to it’s huge amount of Okonomiyaki and Monja places, and is there where I took the pictures of this post.

This dish is prepared in a big griddel which is in the middle of the table. Normally, after ordering the staff will bring a bowl with the ingredients so the customers can prepare it themselves. But I saw in some places the waiters prepare it for you. The instructions to prepare it have pictures and are easy to understand, but the directions are usually in Japanese. So if you cannot figure out how to do it, try to ask the waiter and they’ll probably cook it for you.

In some other entry I’ll post “how to do” for both Okonomiyaki and Monja, as it’s very easy to do, buy also easy to make a mistake, specially with Monja (it happened to me the first time I prepared it lol).

Shinjuku Gyoen National Park

31/03/2016, Tokyo

I had some free days after I finished level 3 at  my school, so I decided to go and see some cherry blossoms (桜) by myself. In Japan, when you watch the weather information on the TV they also provide other useful information, in Spring, for example, information about the pollen and the cherry blossoms. There is where I saw the Cherry Blossoms where in full blossom (満開) and was an ideal time to go. Therefore, I checked some rankings of the best places to see the trees (花見) and I decided to try first with the Shinjuku Gyoen National Park (新宿御苑国民公園).

I knew it was going to be crowded so I arrived exactly in the moment the park opened, it was a weekday so it was quiet and nice, I had breakfast there and took a ton of pictures.

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History

It’s a huge park located in Shinjuku. During the Edo period, it was the residence of the Naitou family, but afterwards, the Imperial Household Agency started to manage it. And now it is property of the national Ministry of Environment.

Types of Cherry Blossoms

These are the types of Cherry Blossoms that you can see in the park. I’m not an expert but when you enter, you can pick up a pamphlet in Japanese that explains you when you should come to see each variety and expected full bloom date. Anyway, this always changes as it is directly influenced by the weather and temperatures, so it is better to check the weather on the TV or on the Internet.

  • ソメイヨシノ (Somei Yoshino)
  • エドヒガン (Edo Higan)
  • オオシマザクラ (Ooshima Sakura)
  • ヤマザクラ (Yama Zakura)
  • オオヤマザクラ (Ooyama Zakura)
  • ベンドノ (Bendono)
  • ベニユタカ (Beniyutaka)
  • シラユキ (Shirayuki)
  • シロタエ (Shirotae)
  • スザク (Suzaku)
  • タイハク (Taihaku)
  • チョウシュウヒザクラ (Choushuuhi Zakura)
  • ヤエベニシダレ (Yaebeni Shidare)
  • アメリカ (America)
  • コシオヤマ (Koshi Oyama)
  • ヤエサコンノサクラ (Yaesakosono Sakura)
  • イズヨシノ (Izu Yoshino)
  •  コヒガン (Kohi Gan)
  •  シダレザクラ (Shidare Zakura)
  • タカトオコヒガン (Takato Okohi Gan)
  • トウカイザクラ (Toukai Zakura)
  •  ヒマラヤヒザクラ (Himarayahi Zakura)
  • ヨウコウ (Yoykou)
  • ヨコハマヒザクラ (Yokohamahi Zakura)

How to arrive

The park has several gates, but I chose Shinjuku gate as it was more convenient for me because I used Yamanote line. To arrive, from JR Shinjuku Station, use New South Exit and it will be around 5 minutes walk to the park.

If you visit…

In some periods it can be very crowded, so I recommend to avoid the weekends. Even in normal weekdays it will be quite a crowd, the sooner you visit, the less people. It opens at 9:00AM and closes at 16:30AM. It doesn’t open on Monday, except in high season (cherry blossom and chrysanthemum viewing). The admission fee is ¥200 for adults and ¥50 for children.

If you want to see the Cherry Blossoms, mind the weather. Depending on the weather the blooming time changes. They start to bloom when it gets hotter. And they start to fall if there’s wind or rain. They don’t last too long, so the best is to go the day that are on full bloom or around that date because that way you will be able to see them.

More information

If you want to know more about the park you can visit the official website, but mind that it is in Japanese: Shinjuku Gyoen National Park Website.

Each year they provide a forecast of the blooming and a map. You can take it in the entrance of the park or download it in the website. Here is the map and here is the bloom forecast.

 

My first Sakura!

 

Today I went to Kinshicho because I have to do a presentation about Dagashi for my Japanese class. The store was in front of the station, but when I approached, I saw a Sakura in the park that is nearby, so I runned there to take some pics. It is the first cherry blossom that I see in real life. Actually, when I was it I didn´t know it was a cherry blossom, I though it was a plum blossom as I couldn’t differenciate them. But after posting the pics in the SNS, I realized it was, in fact, a cherry blossom. My first cherry blossom!

And, coming back to the main topic, I went to Kinshicho looking for a store where I could find traditional Japanese candies, which are called Dagashi. Dagashi are traditional japanese sweets for kids. Around 20 years ago the shops that were selling them were everywhere, but now it is difficult to find a traditional one. Indeed, the one I visited today wasn’t a traditional one, but I chose it because it has a great variety and still had the good oldies that I wanted to check. In another post I will share with you the sweets that I bought there (a ton).

And this is the first entry of my blog! I hope I have time to write and manage it. Also, I would like to write the posts not only in English but also in Spanish and Japanese, so I can continue using these languages. When I find out if it’s possible, I’ll try to do it.