When you are in a middle of “concrete jungle” a.k.a. busy city with high risers and not much greenery, you start to crave the peaceful scenery with lots of trees and flowers, and just simply want to be surrounded by beautiful greens. Such place do exist in Tokyo as well, it might not be as large as Central Park in NYC, but it certainly is gorgeous, peaceful, and amazingly beautiful. It is called Hamarikyu Garden, located by the Sumida River. It was opened April 1, 1946, and pretty large space considering how small Tokyo really is, and this oasis is surrounded by modern buildings, which gives really interesting contracting view. It is said that this garden was remodeled as a public garden park on the site of a villa of the Tokugawa Shogun family in the 17th century.
Inside this garden is a nice big pond, and a teahouse called Nakajima no Ochaya. They are sitting in the pond, giving that beautiful view all around. A large traditional architecture, and the menu is right outside before you enter. What do they serve? Matcha tea and traditional Japanese sweets. Yes, that is all, and basically, that really is all you need when you are in this peaceful, old-time Japanese scene.
It is an old, traditional structure with tatami floor. First, remember to take your shoes off before you enter, and change to slippers that they have ready for all guests. You sit at where the red cloths are placed on tatami, and the tea and Japanese sweets will be serve to you in the traditional tea ceremony style.
There are very nice touch of the traditional Japanese decor, both in the inside and out. There was this large red umbrella and little cute animals, and right out side the umbrella was a rock & sand garden.
If you are not into sitting on the tatami and get the full tea ceremony experience, you can also sit outside in the large terrace with a beautiful view. In this case, you will be given a number after you put in your order, and the waitress will bring your Matcha tea and Japanese sweets to your table. They only have long tables, so be prepare to share the table when it gets a bit busy. We shared our table with a couple of older ladies, who were really sweet and friendly.
So, it is now time for some Matcha green tea and Japanese sweets! It is 720 yen for a set (approximately $7). The Matcha came in a large, traditional tea cup that is more like a soup bowl (you supposed to hold it with your both hands when drinking the tea). It is bitter, without any sugar or sweetener added. Therefore, it is accompanied by this Japanese sweets that are really sweet. Having the bitter tea with the sweet, high-grade Japanese fresh confectioneries balance each other out perfectly.
They brought 2 different Japanese confectioneries, one was pink with flower and a leaf design, and another one was white with deep purple swallow. Both very beautifully hand made, perfect piece of art in every way. In the inside was a sweet bean paste, really rich, dense, velvety, and very delicious. So was the tea, very high quality all around.
And have a mentioned the view? Since it sits on the water, the view from the terrace was really great. You get to see the rest of the garden, and modern skyscrapers of Tokyo beyond the garden.
The entire experience left us with calm, peaceful mind, and happy tummy. The Japanese sweets are not large in size, but the richness of the tea and confectioneries will leave you satisfied, and you will be smiling without realizing it. It is so nice to have such oasis in the middle of the busy city. And, this tea house is like a temple of oasis inside the oasis. So, next time you are in Tokyo, and want to take a little breather away from the people, noise, and all that skyscrapers in the concrete jungle, head over to Hamarikyu garden and relax for a while. You will be all refreshed afterwards to start anew!
Nakajima no Ochaya – 1-1 Hamarikyu Garden, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0046, Japan