We visited Asakusa 2 years ago and simply loved the place. I thought I knew what this place had to offer, but little did I know that I was going to meet the God of matcha ice cream here.🍦 Read on to find out!
Leading our journey from Tabata to Asakusa like a pro. 👧 Dōzo!
The display on Japan train is amazing and efficient, showing you which carriage you are on and where the exits are once you alight. Headed straight to Sensō-ji 浅草寺 once we got there. You can either walk there or get one of these hunks to pull you on their rickshaw. 😉
A short walk brought us to Nakamise shopping street, which offers heaps of Japanese traditional souvenirs and snacks. We headed straight to Sensō-ji 浅草寺 and decided to check out these stores later. But, we just can’t give these fried Agemanju a pass. 🤤 These deep-fried manju from Asakusa-kokonoe (浅草九重) are especially famous. They are available in a wide variety of flavours, including red bean, sakura, pumpkin, custard cream, chocolate, green tea, curry and the savoury one, monja (inspired by monjayaki). They were deep fried at the store and we had to wait for the next fresh batch of monja-flavoured ones for about 15 minutes. But let me tell you, this monja Agemanju was definitely worth it. The sakura one was amazing too!
Verdict: 7/10 overall, but 10/10 for Monja flavour!
Sakura, green tea and monja (from left to right in the middle picture)
Close up of monja (left) and green tea Agemanju (right)
Then it’s time to visit Sensō-ji 浅草寺.
Now, here come’s the highlight of the day. Ready for it?
Ta-da! 🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩 Introducing…the world’s richest, purest, most potent, most concentrated, most premium, sorta-straight-out-from-tea-leaves matcha green tea gelato from Suzukien x Nanaya Collaboration Shop (壽々喜園×ななや)! One bite will send you straight to matcha heaven, I promise!
They had matcha gelato ranging from No.1 (being the lightest) to No.7 (world’s purest form), and needless to say I went for Premium No.7 without any hesitation. The gelato was not too sweet nor bitter, just perfect. Every bite was just so matcha! BEST. MATCHA. ICE. CREAM. EVER.🤩 If I could bring this back to Sydney, I would!
After falling back to Earth when I finished eating my cone, it’s time to explore Nakamise shopping street. Don’t forget to also check out the back alley as there were some good stores too!
I got myself a fortune cat (maneki neko) keyring and two Japanese traditional coin purses. Besides traditional souvenirs like maneki neko, Japanese flip-flops and fans, there were also Japanese snacks like freshly made-to-order senbei (rice cracker), melon pan (sweet bun) and more.
What attracted us the most were these tiny dango with crushed peanut toppings, perfectly paired with a cup of warm, sweet and refreshing amazake (甘酒), which is a low-alcohol (or even non-alcoholic) drink made from fermented rice. However, be extra gentle and careful when you are eating the dango, or else you will end up in a mess like me!
After all those snacks, it’s time for lunch! Yes, you read it right, we still have space in our tummy for the main meal. 😋 Our choice was made when we saw this ramen franchise from the Asakusa station earlier. Guess which one that is?
It is Ichiran (一蘭) Ramen! Oh man this is one crazily irresistible ramen. Totally my kryptonite. The queue was about 20 minutes long and I got a lil’ impatient. But nothing can stop me from slurping this!
This branch has both table seatings and also the traditional ramen booths. There are only 10 booths though, so we chose to sit at the tables where the queue goes much faster. You order through the vending machines, which have Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean words to make ordering a breeze. The vending machines only take cash though, so make sure you have enough. What you do basically is to insert enough money in there and start pushing buttons. You pick your basic ramen, which only comes with two pieces of cha-shu and shallots (and a half-boiled umami egg, if you picked the first one), and any other toppings that you like, which will be served separated from your ramen. I can never have my tonkotsu ramen without kikurage mushrooms and dried seaweed, so I had those and also a bottle of fat-reducing tea. The machine then dispensed tiny tickets for each of the item that you have ordered, which you should pass to the staff at your table. You will then fill up a form to “customise” your ramen, whether you like your ramen harder or softer, your broth fatter or lighter, your shallots green or white etc. Once that’s done, pass it to the staff and you are set!
I like my Ichiran ramen soft with strong and rich flavour broth, topped with white spring onions and a final touch of a standard serving of garlic and Ichiran’s red hot sauce. If you are up for slurping every drop of the broth, you will find a hidden message in your bowl, “この一滴は最高の喜びです”, which basically means that “the last drop is the most pleasurable”.
Verdict: Of course, 10/10
Shinjuku was our next stop and we did lots of shopping there. Main stop was Uniqlo to get more extra-warm heat tech shirts and leggings to brave the snow the next day.
Dinner was unexpectedly, tonkotsu ramen again! This time we had it in an underground restaurant called Yokohama Kakei Ramen (横浜家系ラーメン). It was a typical basement eatery with limited seats and minimal staffs. Orders were through vending machines and everything was pretty much self-served. Unlike Ichiran, you have plenty of condiments and seasonings on your table so you can flavour your ramen to your liking. The broth was not as thick as Ichiran’s but the sweetness was lingering and refreshing. The only thing I didn’t like about Yokohama Kakei was that the ramen was thick and fat.
On the way back I was attracted by these…🤩
Limited-edition and region-specific Kit Kats! I was looking everywhere for these during my previous trip but the only place I could find them was the airport and they were unacceptably expensive! So this time, I allow myself to buy a few boxes from 0101 Departmental Store…only to regret it later! In the next hour or so, I found them cheaper at the famous discount store, Don Quijote, for only about ¥750 each!
So, note to self (and everyone else going to Japan), buy your souvenirs from Don Quijote because:
- They are cheaper (most of the time).
- If you buy all of your souvenirs from the same store, your purchase is more likely to exceed ¥5000 and hence, you are eligible to claim tax refund and get 8% discount on the spot.
- Saves time as you don’t have to queue for the tax refund cashier counter again and again, which usually takes between 15 to 45 minutes!
The best Don Quijote I have been to so far is the MEGA Don Quijote Honten at Shibuya. They have EVERYTHING in there so that would be my one stop solution next time. 😉
These are some of my favourite snacks in Japan and definitely made it to my “to-buy” list for next trip.
Tokyo-edition Rum and Raisin, Onsen-edition Zeitaku Matcha and Hiroshima-edition Momiji Manju Kit Kat (from left to right)
Top: Meiji MeltyKiss rum & raisins chocolate, Doutor chocolate-coated coffee beans (this is crazily addictive) and Calbee brown sugar flavoured sweet potato chips (from left to right)
Bottom: MeltyKiss chocolate (matcha ones are the best), Charlotte chocolates and chocorentines (chocolate florentines) and Lotte alcochol-infused chocolate (from left to right)
Okay I’m gonna go have some of those MeltyKiss now.😋 See yaz.
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