It took me some time to try kakigōri (かき氷) and that was a mistake. I mistook it for some version of the horrible cones of Shave Ice you used to find at the Easter Show. Now, I regret all the time I spent not enjoying delicious kakigōri.
Traditionally, kakigōri is made by hand. A hand-cranked machine spins a blade over a block of ice, creating light and fluffy shavings. You'll see newer electric alternatives in use now, but traditional machines are still popular.
Once spun and shaved, the ice is topped with syrups. Look for flavours like matcha, plum, strawberry, grape or melon. To deepen and sweeten the flavour, condensed or evaporated milk is often added. When it's hot you can find this icy goodness at cafes, festivals, food stalls and fancier outposts like traditional tea houses and department store cafes.
Our first kakigōri, at Yokohama's Cup Noodles Museum.
Ready to take things to the next level? Order shirokuma (白熊 or しろくま). It's kakigōri with a condensed milk base and added toppings like fresh fruit, mochi, dried fruit, adzuki (red bean) paste and wafers.