Kakigori, Refreshing Shaved Ice For Hot Summer Days

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Kakigori is a Japanese summer sweet made of shaved ice served with various syrups, and sometimes including assorted toppings. The sweet already existed as far back as the 11th century.

The traditional way of making Kakigori uses a hand cranked machine to spin a block of ice over a shaving blade. Even though electric ice shavers are most often used today, some street vendors can still be seen hand-shaving ice blocks in the summer.

When I was a child about 40 years ago, Japanese families privately owned this simple “Kakigori” machine to enjoy at home. However, since then I hadn’t had Kakigori for a long long time until the shaved ice dessert recently made a strong comeback.

Kakigori Summer Sweets
Kakigori Lemon & Maccha

Kakigori shops have started popping up all over Japan. Especially in Tokyo you can see Kakigori stands attracting large queues. Kakigori is even becoming a year-round treat.

Popular flavors of Kakigori include mango, orange, strawberry, cherry, lemon, green tea, grape, melon, “Blue Hawaii,” sweet plum, and colorless syrup. Some shops provide colorful varieties by using two or more different syrups.

People especially love “Uji-Kintoki.” This variety comes with sweetened green tea syrup and assorted Azuki (red beans), sometimes accompanied by white Mochi (rice cake) balls. Uji is a famous town for top quality green tea production (located just down the road from Kyoto), and Kintoki is a byname of Azuki.

Kakigori will definitely provide you coolness to overcome the hot and humid Japanese summer! Look for signs that say 「”氷”」  (“ice”) just outside of shops, cafés or restaurants.