The Italians have gelato, the French have sorbet, and the Japanese have kakigori! Japan’s traditional shaved-ice dessert, heaped with colourful syrup and condensed milk, has experienced a massive surge in popularity in recent years – skip past those ubiquitous street-snaking queues for these best-in-show sweeties.
Hip, vintage-vibe, red-hued Yelo breaks with the status quo by using fresh rather than condensed milk so as not to weigh down its fluff-tastic whipped-ice crystals. Flavours range from offbeat floral (think hydrangea and pine) to indulgently creamy (oh hello, avocado-mascarpone). Ramp up the calorie count with extra toppings like crushed Oreos, desiccated coconut and gummy drops; counteract the brain freeze with a complimentary green tea chaser, or, come evening, spike your ice with something stronger, like tequila-infused strawberry or coffee with hazelnut liqueur.
Old-fashioned purveyor of all things sweet, the Ginza branch of Toraya boasts a beautiful stash of wagashi (traditional Japanese confections) on the first floor and an expansive tea house on the second floor, dishing up all manner of diet-be-damned treats. During summer time only, they whip up a mean matcha kakigori, as well as some hard-to-find seasonal Japanese cakes. Great for gifting too!
Occupying a playful Kengo Kuma-designed edifice at the University of Tokyo, Kuriya Kashi Kurogi is a modern-meets-artisanal cafe and speciality store helmed by confection wizard Jun Kurogi. Unlike most others in Tokyo, the desserts here are made to order and the kakigori, topped with lashings of kinako powder, sweet red beans, kuromitsu brown sugar syrup, plum jelly and cherry sauce, are large enough to share with your loved one. Try also the chilled kuzu-kiri sweet noodles.
Located in the idyllic, manicured grounds of multi-concept kaiseki fine-diner Yakumo Saryo, Baishinka is a confectionary shop-cum-tearoom specialising in beautifully hand-painted wagashi. During Tokyo’s sweltering summer months, you can also ask for some shaved-ice respite in the form of ume, or salt plums. Pair with a cuppa, pull up a pew near the window, and drink in views of the picture-perfect garden.
Originally written by LUXE for PenCities; last updated on 22 July 2021
For more sweet (and savoury) treats in Japan, nab a copy of the LUXE Tokyo guide…