Delicious Japanese Dishes: Kakigori

It’s almost impossible to get through August in Japan without having at least one bowl of kakigori. There’s not much better than eating this ice cold treat in the sweltering heat. It is the quintessential Japanese summer experience!

Similar to snow cones and slushies found around the world, Japanese kakigori is an ice-based dessert. But rather than being something that’s sold for a few bucks at fairs and street stalls, it has become more of a delicacy in Japan. Specialist restaurants serve up high-quality kakigori with an array of delicious toppings. Think: chopped strawberries, slices of mango, chocolate shavings, green tea powder, tiramisu-inspired layers, and cheesecake-flavour syrup. All so drool worthy!

It’s not only the toppings that make kakigori unique, but the ice itself. If I were to describe it in one word, it would be ‘fluffy’. It’s not hard and crunchy like ice formed in a freezer, but light and airy, just like fresh snow. The secret to this incredibly soft texture is where it comes from. In the mountains of Nikko, there are farms that look something like swimming pools. In the middle of winter, a thick layer of ice forms on the surface of these pools. The ice is cut into blocks, lifted out and stored away in icehouses. The remaining water underneath is left to gradually freeze for around 2 weeks before being cut out again. Long before refrigerators were invented, there used to be many ice farms like this all over Japan. There are 5 remaining today, and it’s thanks to them we can enjoy this heavenly dessert.

Thankfully, kakigori can be found year round at certain cafes and restaurants. Here are a few of my favourite places to put on your list!


Favourite kakigori in Tokyo

Ballon D’essai, Shimokitazawa

Ballon d'essai kakigori
Pouring an espresso shotBallon d'essai kakigoriBallon d'essai kakigori
Coffee jelly at the bottom

かんな (Kanna), Sangenjaya

Kanna kakigori
Mocha Pudding
Kanna kakigori
Grapefruit and honey

ウララ (Urara), Daikanyama

Urara kakigori
Urara kakigori

Favourite kakigori outside of Tokyo

赤福 (Akafuku), Ise, Mie Prefecture

Ise kakigori
Cool kakigori with warm teaIse kakigori
Akafuku red bean paste and mochi hidden inside

Have you ever had kakigori before? Are you more of an ice cream or ice (popsicle, shaved ice, etc.) person?

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27 thoughts on “Delicious Japanese Dishes: Kakigori

  1. 私は宇治金時のかき氷が一番好きです。金時のアズキ色とかき氷の白、抹茶の緑の色合いがきれいですし、氷の中に埋まっている小さなお餅がみえると、嬉しくなります。日光の山中にある池で、寒い冬の間に時間をかけて氷が作られていることを初めて知りました。柔らかいかき氷は綿菓子のようですね。懐かしい夏の風物です。

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 宇治金時のかき氷は美味しいですよね!私はエスプレッソのかき氷が一番好きで、ティラミスのを食べてみたいです。


  2. The one you had in Shimokitazawa looks amazing! I have only tried kakigori during matsuri and I must say I have been a bit disappointed as the syrup was not very good. I will visit Ballon D’essai and hopefully that magnificent looking kakigori will change my mind!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh trust me, you have to try kakigori in a cafe/restaurant! I’ve had one or two good matsuri kakigori but the rest were hard and drenched in that sickly, artificial syrup. If that’s what you’ve had I can understand the disappointment!


    1. It was divine – the perfect combination! The only catch is Akafuku anko is only available in Ise… so you have to travel all the way there to try it :)


    1. Surprisingly, even though they’re not compacted down they somehow hold their shape. The blueberry one I ate outside on a hot day and I don’t think it even dripped at all. The mocha pudding one I kind of dug at it from the sides first and that caused it to topple over… lucky the tray was there!


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