Summer’s officially arrived in Tokyo, and we’re already checking the prices of plane tickets to the southern hemisphere. If you can’t afford a trip to Antarctica in the coming months, you can get some frosty relief courtesy of one of Japan’s favourite summer sweets: kakigori. Made from shaved ice doused in syrup and various other toppings, it can be a sublimely refreshing treat – or a sickly-sweet, Slush Puppie-esque disaster. As cafés and convenience stores throughout the capital start offering their own versions (look for a banner marked with the character for ice, 氷), we’ve picked 15 of our favourite Tokyo kakigori…
Kori gyunyu (ice and milk) at Imojin, ¥450
There’s no fussing around at this century-old sweet shop in Nezu. Fluffy ice shavings sit atop a glass of sweetened, lemon-flavoured milk, which you can slurp up with a straw once you’re finished eating. Simple, and simply delicious.
There’s a distinctly shitamachi (downtown) feel to this cosy Japanese-style café, first established way back in 1912. Just around the corner from Nezu Shrine, Imojin keeps locals and day-trippers well fed with an array of ice creams and traditional sweet treats. If you’re in a rush, grab a wafer-casedmonaka ice cream at the takeaway counter; if not, pull up a chair in the eat-in area and get to work on a bowl of anmitsu – red beans and fruit doused in syrup – or the summer-only kakigori desserts, made with vast piles of shaved ice.
Transport Nezu Station (Chiyoda line)
Telephone 03 3821 5530
Kori mirufuru (ice, milk‘n’fruit) at Mitsubachi Honten, ¥500
Dig into that dome of ice doused with condensed milk and you’ll find chunks of mandarin, peach and pineapple hidden underneath, their citrus tang offsetting the sweetness. And we thought that ‘mirufuru’ meant ‘mille-feuille’…
This century-old café in the Ueno area is said to be the birthplace of ogura(sweet red bean) ice cream. Mitsubachi still sells its most famous innovation today, housed in a wafer case that’s also available for takeaway or home delivery. Customers who’ve managed to squeeze into the shop’s small eat-in space can enjoy a range of ice creams and kakigori shaved-ice desserts during the summer, or opt for some warming oshiruko adzuki bean porridge in the winter.
Telephone 03 3831 3083
Open Daily 10am-9pm (teashop 10.30am-8pm)
Himitsu no ichigo miruku (strawberry milk) at Himitsudo, ¥700
The ‘secret’ specials change every day at this kakigori shop, open year-round in Yanaka, but you can always get their signature strawberry-milk version. Sweet – but not too sweet – it’ll keep you slurping until the very last drop.
Anyone who thinks that traditional Japanese sweet shops are a dying breed should pay a visit to this charming Yanaka eatery, which only opened a couple of years ago. Himitsudo specialises in kakigori shaved-ice desserts, prepared with a traditional handle-operated machine and served with one of 132 ‘secret’ seasonal toppings (the selection changes daily). Even diehard fans might be surprised by some of the concoctions on offer here – pumpkin cream and mango-yogurt are just two of the unorthodox toppings we’ve come across – and Himitsudo is unusual in that it keeps serving kakigori throughout the colder months too. If you’re going during the summer, be warned that the shop is extremely popular, and on busy days customers can expected to be allocated a numbered ticket for entry.
Transport Sendagi Station (Chiyoda line), Nippori Station (Yamanote, Keihin-Tohoku, Joban, Keisei Main lines)
Telephone 03 3824 4132
Open Tue-Sun 11am-8pm (May-Sep), Wed-Sun 11am-6pm (Oct-Apr) / Closed Mon (Oct-Apr closed Mon, Tue)
Kori shiratama at Hatsune Chaya, ¥550
Sweet shiratamadumplings pop up repeatedly on the menu at Asakusa dessert merchants Hatsuna Chaya, and the kakigori is no different – though they serve them on the side in order to stop the ice from making them go hard.
Keep walking north past Asakusa’s Sensoji Temple and Hanayashiki amusement park, and you’ll find this traditional sweet shop. Chewy mochi rice cakes and sweet red adzuki beans feature heavily on the menu at Hatsune Chaya, where they’re deployed in dishes such as shiratama zenzai, a hot bean soup topped with mochi. It’s most popular during the summer, when sweet-toothed diners can feast on an array of kakigorishaved-ice desserts – a refreshing (if not exactly healthy) way to beat the heat.
Transport Asakusa Station (Ginza, Asakusa, Tsukuba Express lines)
Telephone 03 3844 7658
Nama golden kiwi at Hokusai Sabo, ¥840
The summer-only kakigori lineup at this stylish Kinshicho café is full of delights, including desserts made with strawberries or kinako flour and molasses. Our favourite comes topped with a chunky sauce of fresh kiwi fruit.
With its minimal, Japanese-style decor, this café five minutes’ walk from Kinshicho Station offers a stylish setting for enjoying some exquisitely executed traditional sweets. Seating is spread between a counter, tables, sofas and a zashitsu private room at the back of the shop. There’s a good selection of savoury dishes on offer, including a daily deli plate, though many customers skip straight to dessert: try the kinako crepes, green teawarabimochi, or summer-only array of kakigori shaved-ice creations.
Transport Kinshicho Station (Chuo-Sobu, Sobu, Hanzomon lines)
Telephone 03 5610 5331
Otona no kakigori (kakigori for grown-ups) at Uogashi-Meicha Cha Ginza, ¥500
Living up to its name, this refined take on the classic kakigori will appeal more to parents than their kids. The ice is flavoured with a not-too-sweet tea syrup, and accompanied by Japanese-stylewagashi sweets. Very classy.
Sat right next to exit B3 of Ginza Station, this branch of the Uogashi-Meicha teashop chain also houses a sleek, modernist café space on its upstairs floors. When you’ve exhausted yourself shopping at the local fashion boutiques, slip inside for a cup of green tea or matcha – or maybe some shaved-ice kakigori desserts in the summer months.
Transport Ginza Station (Ginza, Marunouchi, Hibiya lines)
Telephone 03 3571 1211
Open Tue-Sun 11am-7pm / Closed Mon
Admission Matcha, Sencha (served with a small dish ¥500)
Ujikintoki at Funabashiya Koyomi, ¥750
Ujikintoki is one of the classic kakigori flavour combinations, mixing tart matcha tea with sweet adzuki beans. Funabashiya serves the constituent parts separately, so you can douse that snow-like ice dome in syrup yourself.
Kameido-based traditional confectioner Funabashiya marked its 200th anniversary by opening this shop and café in Hiroo in 2005. The ground floor shop sells Funabashiya staples such as anmitsu (jellied red beans and fruit topped with sweet syrup), custard puddings and the signaturekuzu-mochi for takeaway. Head upstairs and you’ll find an elegantly appointed café space, where you can sample desserts including green tea chiffon cake and kakigori shaved ice, as well as some surprisingly wholesome lunch sets incorporating five-grain rice and seasonal vegetables.
Transport Hiroo Station (Hibiya line), exit 2
Telephone 03 5449 2784
Open Daily 11am-8pm (café 11.30am-5pm)
Kori nama ichigo (ice and fresh strawberries) at Shimura, ¥800
It looks enormous when it arrives at the table, but Shimura’s famous strawberry kakigori – smothered in a sauce that’s laden with fresh fruit – manages to be sweet but never cloying. Trust me: you’ll have no problem finishing it.
This traditional sweet maker, not far from Mejiro Station, is one of Tokyo’s most popular spots for kakigori shaved-ice desserts. And deservedly so: doused in syrup laden with real fruit (an all-too-rare sight), these summertime treats look good and taste even better. A selection of savoury dishes such as vegetable curry and onigiri rice balls complements the dessert lineup, and you can also pick up sweets including Shimura’s signature tsukumo mochi in the ground-floor shop.
Transport Mejiro Station (Yamanote line)
Telephone 03 3953 3388
Kocha kori miruku-gake (ice with tea and milk) at Kori Kobo Ishibashi, ¥650
Quite a few customers end up ordering two portions at this Sangenjaya kakigori shop, and after trying them you’ll understand why. This is one of our favourites, topped with tea syrup and milk to create a taste reminiscent of milky tea.
The name – literally ‘ice factory’ – tells you everything you need to know about this retro-style shop, in a residential area about five minutes’ walk from Sangenjaya. Kori Kobo Ishibashi serves nothing but kakigori shaved ice desserts, with toppings ranging from strawberry syrup to milk tea. The small tables and chairs give it the feel of eating at a festival stall, while the antique ice machine and vintage refrigerator lend the place an undeniably old-school charm.
Transport Sangenjaya Station (Denentoshi Line)
Telephone 03 3411 2130
Matcha adzuki at Shimokita Chaen Oyama, ¥800
Given that there’s an award-winning tea shop downstairs, it’s no surprise to discover that Chaen Oyama’s matcha adzuki kakigori is a rich, full-flavoured winner. Pay an extra ¥50 for a side order of condensed milk – you won’t regret it.
This afternoons-only café sits on the upstairs floor of a family-run teashop, not far from the north exit of Shimokitazawa Station (pay close attention when you go there, as the staircase is easy to miss). The cosy space has seating for just 16 people, with shelves displaying the vast collection of tea judging trophies that Oyama’s owners have amassed over the years. In the summer months, the café is a popular stop for fans of kakigoori, those distinctively Japanese desserts made with mountains of shaved ice.
Transport Shimokitazawa station (Odakyu, Keio Inokashira lines)
Telephone 03 3466 5588
Open Daily 2pm-6pm / Irregular holidays
Kuromitsu (black syrup) kakigori at Gion Tokuya, ¥900
Just because you’re in fashionable Harajuku doesn’t mean you can’t pig out. Gion Tokuya serves enormous mounds of ice with a side order of syrup – complete with a few sweet shiratama dumplings – that customers can pour on themselves.
When United Arrows chairman Osamu Shigematsu tried the sweetwarabimochi at the original Gion Tokuya in Kyoto, he was apparently so impressed that he invited the traditional dessert makers to open a branch in Tokyo – on the ground floor of the fashion brand’s headquarters in Harajuku, no less. It’s an upscale setting for some upscale treats. Start with the dish that so impressed Shigematsu: Tokuya no Hon Warabimochi, a light, pliant jelly made with high-quality bracken starch and refinedwasanbon sugar, topped with sweet kinako soybean flour and kuromitsumolasses sauce. Other tempting offerings on the menu include mochiyaki shiruko, a sweet adzuki bean soup accompanied with rice cake toasted on a tabletop grill. In the summer months, Gion Tokuya also serves a range ofkakigoori, mountains of shaved ice with toppings such as tea or adzuki beans.
Transport Meiji-Jingumae Station (Chiyoda, Fukutoshin lines), Harajuku Station (Yamanote line)
Telephone 03 5772 6860
Open Mon-Fri noon-8pm, Sat, Sun & hols 11am-8pm / Irregular holidays
Akazumitsu-duke natsu mikan (summer tangerine in red vinegar and honey) at Sake Shop Fukumitsuya, ¥600
If you can resist the urge to start sampling the saké on offer, Fukumitsuya also does some thirst-quenching kakigori in unusual flavour combinations – all of it made with the same top-notch water that goes into the nihonshu.
Nothing goes to waste at Kanazawa-based brewery Fukumitsuya: its Tokyo Midtown shop sells not only nihonshu, but also food and skincare products derived from saké. A bar inside the shop lures visitors with the prospect of nihonshu (including a ¥500 happy hour tasting set, available from 5pm-7pm) and ice cream.
Transport Roppongi Station (Oedo, Hibiya lines), Nogizaka Station (Chiyoda line)
Telephone 03 6804 5341
Open Daily 11am-9pm
Uji milk shiratama at Amanoya, ¥1,560
You won’t find kakigori on the menu at Amanoya, but they’re happy to make it if you ask nicely – and this mountainous portion of shaved ice topped with green tea syrup, milk and small shiratama dumplings didn’t disappoint.
First established in Osaka in 1932, this venerable eatery – specialists in traditional Japanese sweets – moved to its current home in Azabu-Juban in 2003. Popular dishes include ogura toast, made with sweet bean paste, and gelatinous warabimochi dusted with kinako soybean flour. It’s not all desserts, though: there’s a smaller section of the menu devoted to savoury dishes such as zosui rice porridge, and in the evening you’ll see many customers enjoying a few tipples with their custard puddings.
Transport Azabu-Juban Station (Oedo, Namboku lines)
Telephone 03 5484 8117
Open Mon-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun & hols 11am-10pm
Tennen kori nama ichigo (natural ice with fresh strawberries) at Darumaya Mochigashiten, ¥880
Kakigori fans can get their fix all year round at this wagashi shop in Jujo. This almost spherical offering comes with a jam-like strawberry topping, though it’s best enjoyed with an additional helping of milk (¥100 extra).
Darumaya is located about five minutes’ walk from Jujo Station on the Saikyo line. It’s nestled on the right side of an old-style shopping arcade, which stretches to the north of the station. Outside you can buy dango(rice dough dumplings) and seasonal wagashi (Japanese-style sweets) for takeaway, or you can also take a seat at one of the tables lined up inside. As well as classic sweets like inaka-jiruko (¥580) and cream zenzai(¥550), there are also light snacks such as isobe-maki rolls (¥500) andsanshoku (three coloured) onigiri. All year round you can also enjoykakigori made with natural ice from Shogetsu Himuro in Nikko.
Transport Jujo Station (Saikyo line)
Telephone 03 3908 6644
Open Mon, Wed-Sun 10am-6.30pm / Closed Tue
Admission Dango ¥130, Cream Milk ¥400
Strawberry milk shiratama at Amaikko, ¥950
Scoring full marks for presentation, Amaikko’s kakigori comes piled on a shallow dish, crowned with strawberry syrup and condensed milk and with eight dumplings sitting neatly to the side. It’s also delicious – and not as sweet as it looks.
This Japanese sweet shop is situated on the corner of a residential street, about five minutes from the south exit of Nishi-Ogikubo station. Inside there are six tables for four each. Choose from a wide variety of traditional Japanese desserts – including adzuki bean sweets such as kuri (chestnut)anmitsu (¥700), cream anmitsu (¥700) and inaka-jiruko (¥650) – as well as more modern treats like the shaved ice dessert kakigoori (koori-sui, from ¥550). The ice desserts also come in a children’s size.
Transport Nishi-Ogikubo Station (Chuo-Sobu line)
Telephone 03 3333 3023
Open Daily 11am-7pm
Admission Calpis ice ¥550, Cream anmitsu ¥700