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
Pouring an espresso shot
Coffee jelly at the bottom
かんな (Kanna), Sangenjaya
Grapefruit and honey
ウララ (Urara), Daikanyama
Favourite kakigori outside of Tokyo
赤福 (Akafuku), Ise, Mie Prefecture
Cool kakigori with warm tea
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?