Crazy for kakigori

The ultimate summer dessert shakes up Tokyo's sweets scene

Crazy for kakigori

Japan's traditional summer treat, kakigori (shaved ice with syrup), is making a strong comeback: new specialist shops are popping up all over Tokyo, regularly attracting the kind of ridiculous queues normally reserved for Harajuku pancake shops, flavoured popcorn and a certain Umegaoka-born sushi joint. One of the reasons behind the craze is the use of local, natural spring water for the ice. Unlike standard tap water, the purity of this fine mountain water helps create airy ice that's superbly light and delicate. Many of the new shops also make their own syrup, often from carefully selected, quality ingredients. Although kakigori seems to be transforming into a year-round dessert, it's still absolutely best enjoyed at the peak of summer. Here are our top 10 picks of the finest places in the city to sample true gourmet ice right now – slap on some sunscreen and prepare to wait for your reward.

Kakigori Kobo Sekka

Opened in June 2014 in Sugamo, known as 'Harajuku for grannies', this 'shaved ice workshop' sizzles with natural ice straight from Nikko's famed Shogetsu Himuro. Their signature strawberry milk kakigori (¥800) is heavenly, while you may not care for the anno-imo (a kind of sweet potato) or natto kinako (!) varieties. On the other hand, the Taiwan-style milk-flavoured ice is actually pretty good.
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Nikko Tennengori Shinjiro

For kakigori cravings in Ikebukuro, there's no better place than this newly opened shop serving premium ice from Tochigi's Nikko. Their most popular menu choice is the fresh strawberry version (¥900), a delightful creation that's not overly sweet and makes good use of the natural taste of the berries. You can also top your dish with some of the free condensed milk available, or get your ice on the go if you're in a hurry.
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Kakigori Kawakyu Shimokitazawa

Aichi-born shaved ice old-timer Kawakyu tries its luck in Shimokitazawa during the summer months (until Sep 28), serving up its natural creations with homemade fruit syrup in the building usually occupied by curry eatery Sumire. Around 20 kakigori flavours are available, including rarities like guava and grapes, extra milk toppings are free, and every item on the menu goes for the same low price – ¥500. Do prepare to queue up though, as this is one popular spot.
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Milk & Honey Harajuku

This Harajuku pop-up shop (open until Sep 30) hails from Fukuoka and serves up deluxe shaved ice made with fully natural syrup. Their Miyazaki mango (¥800) creation is served with milk and an intensely flavoured mango sauce, while the signature Milk & Honey (¥600) is simple but delicious. Although we could find absolutely nothing wrong with the flavours, one might hope for slightly bigger sizes than this after a hard day of shopping.
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Somewhat inconveniently located, this wonderful Japanese restaurant's kakigori are well worth making the walk for: opened in 2013, Kanna has captivated locals with its old-school goodies, made with natural ice sourced from Tochigi's Nikko. Anko-flavoured choices are dominant, with creations like 'purple sweet potato with milk' (¥700) topping the charts. Naturally, basics like strawberry and other fruity mixes are also available.
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Originally a summer-only dessert at the soba shop upstairs, the kakigori at this Sakura-Shinmachi joint proved so popular that the owners decided to rent an extra space just for the purpose of serving deluxe shaved ice. Their innovative flavour combinations include the popular 'strawberry cheese' and the curious 'summer pumpkin caramel', but the star of the show is the watermelon (¥850), which is limited to 20 servings per day. The beautiful creation features a compote of watermelon and syrup on top, while deliciously sweet watermelon pieces can be found further down.
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Kajitsu Club

Nakameguro's Kajitsu Club charms with seasonal flavours like peach (¥970, July-August only) and Yubari melon, as well as with year-round varieties such as mango, strawberry and kiwi. Their sparkly ice comes in two varieties, with the konayuki ('powder snow') sourced from the slopes of Mount Fuji and the shiroyuki ('white snow') made with Kyushu-produced milk – both actually demonstrate a snow-like, soft texture. The creamy syrup mixture may take some getting used to, but comes through brilliantly in the end.
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Kakigori Cafe & Bar Yelo

This Roppongi newcomer takes the old summer favourite to another level with unorthodox flavours like tiramisu (¥800) and carrot-mascarpone, while also touting a luxurious four-berry (strawberry, cranberry, blueberry and raspberry) variety (¥900). The shop is open until the wee hours of the morning, making Yelo the preferred stop for many a sweet-loving party animal.
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Caffé Bene

Korean café chain Caffé Bene boasts a whopping 1,100 outlets across Asia and the United States, but this Akasaka shop is one of their only two Japan locations. Their speciality is the patbingsu, the Korean take on shaved ice that's made with frozen milk and liberally topped with fruit and gelato. We recommend the 'mango tropical' variety (¥580), topped with thick mango sauce and passion fruit sorbet. The portion may look small, but the tightly packed ice ensures sufficient volume.
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Yukinosita Ginza

This Osaka import serves up delectable kakigori at its Ginza shop, where the staff take care to use only the finest dairy and other ingredients. Instead of pouring syrup on the ice, as is customary, the ice here is frozen with ingredients and all – an interesting method that works surprisingly well. We especially liked the matcha version (¥800), made with Kyoto green tea, frozen milk, red bean paste and shiratama rice cakes. If the ice alone isn't enough to satisfy, Yukinosita's thick and fluffy pancakes should do the trick.
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By Time Out Tokyo Editors
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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