Japanese summer can be hot, humid, and... enjoyable! Summer is the best time of year to enjoy "kakigori," which is a traditional Japanese dessert made of shaved ice with syrup, and sometimes other ingredients. In this article, we will cover the history, popular flavors of kakigori, as well as introduce you to some of the best shops that serve this Japanese dessert in Tokyo. We will also explain how to make your own kakigori at home.
The history of kakigori goes all the way back to the Heain period (794-1185), when it was enjoyed exclusively by aristocracy. You can't make kakigori without ice, which was one of the main reasons for its scarcity and exclusivity in the past.
As times went on, technological progress made it possible to turn a new page in history of kakigori. Development of first ice makers in the Meiji era (1868-1912) made mass production of ice a reality. Kakigori was no longer a privilege of elites to enjoy, the general public finally tasted this mouthwatering dessert too. Invention of an ice shaving machine further cemented status of kakigori as one of the most popular Japanese summer treats.
Nowadays, you can taste kakigori at various places ranging from upscale hotels and cafes to your local convenience stores. Even more, you can make one yourself at home!
One of the easiest ways to find a kakigori shop or a stall is to keep an eye for a banner with red kanji (Japanese character) meaning ice. There are many designs and varieties of banners for kakigori places. But red "氷"(ice) kanji probably means you have found a place that will serve you some shaved ice dessert. If you attend one of the summer festivals in Japan, make sure not to miss it.
Once you have found a kakigori shop, it is time to choose a flavor of your dreams. While a cotton like candy texture of kakigori is sure to leave you craving for more, the sheer variety of flavors available is what never ceases to amaze. The most popular flavors are strawberry with condensed milk and ujikintoki (made of matcha syrup and azuki beans).
Melon, lemon, mango, blue Hawaii and shirokuma are also some of the favorite flavors among Japanese people. There are also many more unique syrups and toppings you can encounter in the world of kakigori. It would be impossible to list all of them in this article.
As one Japanese proverb says: "hyakubun wa ikken ni sikazu", which can be translated as it is better to see something once than hear about it one hundred times. No matter how much we talk about kakigori, going to a shop and trying it yourself is the best and the most delicious way to experience Japanese culture. For those of you who are going to visit Tokyo or already live there, we have prepared a list of some of the best kakigori shops in the capital of Japan. After satisfying your cravings for kakigori, you may also be interested in visiting one fo the "Tokyo's Best Fruit Parlors" to enjoy luxury fruits and desserts.
In the summer, kakigori may seem to be a dessert that is sold virtually anywhere. However, the same cannot be said about other seasons. Luckily, there are many specialty shops that serve kakigori all year around. If you happen to miss Japanese summer, do not get disappointed and read further for the information about some of the best shops in Tokyo.
Serves kakigori made with ice from Mount Fuji and flavored with a handmade syrup. Atelier Sekka`s attention to details definitely makes it worth a visit.
Website: http://atelier-sekka.com (in Japanese)
Address: 3-37-6 Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Menu at Himitsudo changes daily and a manually operated ice shaving machine is used to shave ice that is taken from Nikko area. Syrups are all home-made and do not contain additives.
Website: http://himitsudo.com (in Japanese)
Address: 3-11-18 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
This shop is a must go for those of you who are eager to explore the world of kakigori flavors. Menu changes on regular basis and often includes rather unique toppings.
Website: https://www.instagram.com/hyousha_mamatoko/ (in Japanese)
Address: 6-31-2 Honcho, Nakano-ku, Tokyo
The shop specializes in taiyaki, a fish shaped cake made with anko (red bean paste). It is also a popular place to enjoy kakigori! The shop serves delicious kakigori with various flavors, and you can also enjoy their famous taiyaki!
Website: https://a-naniwaya.com (in Japanese)
Address: 2-12-4 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
When it comes to creativity in kakigori, there is probably no better place than Ichounoki. Kakigori served there is more than a shaved ice dessert, it is a delicious masterpiece. For more information, updates, etc., please visit the Instagram page (in Japanese).
Address: 1-28-14 Kitashinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo
On the first floor, there is a shop where you can purchase various "wagashi" (Japanese traditional sweets), and on the second and third floors, there is a cafe where you can enjoy delicious kakigori! You can check their instagram page (in Japanese) for menu, photos of kakigori, and more.
Website: https://shimurakashi.base.shop (in Japanese)
Address: 3-13-3 Mejiro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
We have some good news for those of you who would like to relax and enjoy home-made kakigori without leaving the comfort of your home – making one is easy! In order to make one, you would need to have pure water to make ice (using tap water is not recommended), syrup and an ice shaving machine called "kakigori-ki" in Japanese. You can either go for a traditional manually operated one or choose an electric one. Using the electric ice shaving maching is easier, but the traditional manual one may give you a more authentic experience. Kakigori-ki can be bought at electronics stores or ordered online using such services as Amazon.
Once you have prepared ice, it is strongly recommended to let it melt a bit before crushing it. Then, you simply shave it using kakigori-ki. When you have finished shaving ice, you need to pour syrup on top of it. That’s it! Your kakigori is ready! For those of you who would like to go a little bit further, it is always possible to make a syrup yourself or add some fruits. There are countless recipes for kakigori and you are sure to find one that will satisfy your taste buds.
Summer in Japan is the time of the year characterized by humidity and heat. However, it does not mean that your life should be centered around constant fight with it. Summer in Japan is the best time of the year to try something new, something uniquely Japanese like kakigori.
Here are some basic materials you will need to make Kakigori at home. Click the images to see details.
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