Japanese Kakigori: Take A Break From The Summer Heat

Poste date: Friday, July 2, 2021

Summer in Tokyo with all its humidity and heat is probably the hardest season to navigate through. Luckily, summer is not all about struggling with heat and fighting humidity, it is also the best time of the year to enjoy some "Kakigori" time.

What is Kakigori?​​

​Kakigori is a traditional Japanese dessert made of shaved ice. Its history goes all the way back to the Heain period (794-1185), when this dessert was enjoyed exclusively by aristocracy. You cannot make kakigori without ice and this is 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 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!

How to Find Kakigori?​

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.

The World of Kakigori Flavors

Once you have found a kakigori shop, it is time to choose a flavor of your dreams. While a cotton candy like 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.

Famous Kakigori Shops

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.

Atelier Sekka

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 (only in Japanese)
Address: 3-37-6 Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

Himitsudo

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 (only in Japanese)
Address: 3-11-18 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Mamatoko

This shop is a must go for those of you who are eager to explore the world of kakigori flavors. Menu at Mamatoko changes on regular basis and often includes rather unique toppings.

Website: https://www.instagram.com/hyousha_mamatoko/?hl=ja (only in Japanese)
Address: 3-7-9 Yayoicho, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Asakusa Naniwaya

The shop specializes in taiyaki, a fish shaped cake made with sweetened azuki beans. The beans used in kakigori are the very same ones that you can enjoy in their famous taiyaki making it one of the best locations for azuki beans lovers.

Website: https://a-naniwaya.com (only in Japanese)
Address: 2-12-4 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Sebastian

The owner of the shop, a French cuisine chef in the past, serves kakigori with a European twist. For those of you who would like something different from a traditional summer treat, this is the place to go for a unique blend of Japanese culture and European traditions.

Website: https://twitter.com/hk_sebas (only in Japanese)
Address: 7-15 Kamiyamacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

How to Make Kakigori

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 machine 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.

For more information about life in Japan, be sure to check our Japanese living guides.

Kakigori at Home

Here are some basic materials you will need to make Kakigori at home. Click the images to see details. 

Kakigori Machines

Flavored Syrup