My local ice shop

There is a traditional Japanese summer dessert called Kakigoori, which is essentially shaved (NOT crushed) ice with syrup on top. Simple, and simply the best for hot summer days, when nothing melts cooler in your mouth than these incredibly thin shaved layers of ice. Lucky me, there is a pretty traditional Japanese ice shop near my home and the nostalgic atmosphere of the shop attracts people from all over Tokyo. I waited so long for some proper summer days this year, hot enough to visit this tiny little shop. When the long rainy season finally finished the other day, I rushed over to enjoy the delicious treat while some cicadas were making a loud noise on the trees. As soon as I was surrounded by the special atmosphere of the shop, I realized that time was flowing very slowly… the people in the shop all had an extremly warm heart which made me want to stay forever! Let me introduce my very lovely ice shop to you today!

Written by Ryoko
Translated by Chiemi

Generally, unfortunately and despite their special atmosphere, traditional ice shops in Japan seem to be disappearing. The reason is simply that today anyone can make ice with their own refrigerators. Only larger businesses or bars who believe in the special quality of the ice for their customers’ whiskey still stick with those shops.

However, our tiny shop called ‘Ishibashi’ in Sangenjyaya which was established over 40 years ago still runs their business in the old style: they have been using the same furniture and tableware since 1960′s when they first started the shop.

inside of the shop

machine to shave the big blocks of ice with


you can have a seat outside too

old school television-radio

many old posters on the ceiling

When I talked to the owner of ‘Ishibashi’, he explained: We usually run a wholesale ice store all year round, but when the summer comes, we turn the business into a Kakigoori shop.

I found that their shaved ice is a little bit different from other places I tried. It’s not crunchy but crispy – so chopped even finer than usual. Quite hard to find this special type of shaved ice in Japan.

For kids who love this shaved ice and are in danger of Kakigoori overdose the shop owners make sure they only get one portion a day. Now that might sound boring to you, but eating this dish too fast makes your head hurt immediately and if you eat too much, you get a stomachache really easily. I don’t know why, but it really cools you down, more than ice-cream.

other old fashioned machine to shave the ice with: when the wheel on the left hand side gets turned, the big jammed block of ice turns and shaving blades at the bottom chop it finely

huge block of ice!

here is where you put your dish, wait for a mountain of shaved ice to pile up, put your favorite syrup on top and if you are really nice, put some more extra ice on top after you added the syrup

skilled owner putting the syrup in the right spots

DouZo: Ishibashi’s special shaved ice with 3 different flavours!

Now who invented Kakigoori? According to the Japanese Wikipedia, the first shaved ice in history can be traced back to the Heian-period. In winter, people used to store natural ice in a hole in a shade of a mountain (which is called ‘Himuro’ in Japanese and means ‘Ice room’) and in summer, they would put hydrangea tea syrup on top of the shaved ice and eat it. Of course, this was not for everyone, since ice itself was very rare and valuable.

There is an area called ‘Himuro’ in Osaka, so I wonder if people used to store ice in that area, too…?

menu… all different flavors including banana, honey, english tea and coke…?

They have so many flavors for syrups here already, but if you want a special one – just for you – they will

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do that, too. What impressed me most in this shop was the variety of customers. From kids to very old people, young girls or business men – everyone gets attracted by this tiny shop.


couple are eating shaved ice with ‘green tea syrup’ and ‘green tea syrup with azuki beans’ Yummy!

grandchild of the owner: his favorite seems to be ‘milk and azuki beans’

The owner’s wife is making another one with orange syrup

Done! The shaved ice with orange syrup. Perfect dessert in the hot summer.

And here are some beautiful glass bowls specially made for shaved ice.

very pretty!

Sometimes the owner drives his favorite vehicle with only 3 tires called ‘Midget’ in Japanese (really!) to some festivals as a tiny stall. These kind of vehicles were very popular in Japan from the 1930s to 1950s, but declined gradually as 4 tire trucks became more popular. Too bad!

the owner of Ishibashi and his wife

What a cool vehicle!

This shop is full of old stuff from the Showa period and I’m so happy to meet a lot of great people with a warm heart at this shop. Sadly – this kind of relaxed and communicative atmosphere is very rare in a rushing Tokyo-life…

if you are still hot, think about a snow man! That might help.

Ice shop “Ishibashi” 1-29-8 Sangenjyaya, Setagaya, Tokyo TEL:03-3411-2130

Anyway, thank you very much for your cooperation everyone from ‘Ishibashi’!

If you want to relax on a hot summer day in Japan, remember to look for a traditional Japanese shaved ice shop and chose your favorite syrup on top!

  • Balakumar Muthu

    doesn’t they have any flavor of creamy kind ??

  • steinar

    What a fantastic slice of life, no pun intended. This is why I love PingMag!

  • 100kr

    i love that, here (pakistan) we call it gola gunda.

  • kevin

    yumm! in Canada we have just Snow Cone stands. They are just like this but served in a paper cone like icecream.
    Great article!

  • Arttuxx

    in thailand we call ” narm kang sai” : )

    “narm kang” means ice.
    “sai” means slice

    i love it too. : )

  • eric

    cool, in malaysia we call it ‘ABC’

  • Wicked

    Noo…. Eric, it’s called “Ais Kacang” literal translated means iced nuts (or beans). It comes with various flavors like those shown here at Ishibashi, as well as a mixed of kdney beans, evaporated milk, peanuts, and lots of others… Yuuuumm!!!!

  • weno

    here in brazil we have the same dessert, but the salesman shaves the ice manually and it’s called “raspadinha”.

  • Francisco

    Here in Ecuador it’s called “granizado”. They usually go around in bicicylces with the “shaving” machine installed. They are specially visible in the beaches and parks.

  • Jon

    Here in Hawaii, with it’s large Japanese-American population, it’s called simply “Shaved Ice.”

  • TommyKane

    I am going to tokyo in a few weeks. I want to go here. It makes me cry.

  • GreenGeorge

    haha we have that in Indonesia too… simply called “es serut”, you can virtually order any dessert anywhere with the 1st word “es” (except es krim wich is ice cream) in indonesia and most probably get a dish with shaved ice, theres plenty of variants you can find, its exactly the same thing, shaved ice with certain syrups, milk, and sometimes chops of fruits… i guess its an asian heritage

  • Uleshka

    little late reply to Balakumar Muthu: yes, they have creamy flavors next to the neon-color fruity syrups. very popular are Japanese variations with condensed milk, like Azuki beans with milk, or Green tea with milk, or also English tea with milk or Strawberry milk…… I guess condensed milk does the trick ;-) …… just like the condensed milk in Vietnamese coffee —- I am dying for that!

  • martin gothberg

    YOU are an EXCELLENT documentarian. Yes, here in the US we have a shaved ice machine and we got it when we tried shaved ice in downtown San Jose years ago. My kids demanded we get a better one than the An Pan Man and Snowman variety and so we sit on hot summer days (all ten of them here in the San Francisco Bay Area) scraping ice. I MISS JAPAN!!!

  • Soyuzno

    Great article. I really should go there, since now I’m staying in Tokyo. It’s rare to find that kind of thing in here, even in my home country Indonesia. This article took me back to my childhood :)

  • munchy

    Cool, yup, its let me think about a very common and popular shaved ice product in Malaysia too- called “cendol”.
    Simply blended with shaved ice,brown sugar syrup,pandan noodle and coconut milk! smoothies…..

  • ヤーッコ

    The cool vehicle reminds me of the movie “Always Sanchome no yuhi”!
    What a beautiful piece of culture!

  • yx

    i want some of that NOW TT_TT

  • NICO

    In Singapore, its the delicious ICE KACHANG! …yum yum…. “Pingmag is tasty!”

  • sameer kulavoor

    wow! we have exactly the same thing here in INDIA as well! similar ice-shaving machine, painted in indian colours, indian motifs of lotuses, peacocks. out here we call it ‘GOLA’..and the sellers are called ‘GOLAWALLAHS’. interesting to see how the same thing is available in so many countries and called with different names everywhere.

  • Paavani

    To add to Last comment- It is also called Chushki, Even in some part of India it is served in Duliya (Diya => earthen lamp) also called clay pot.
    It’s a coolest way because It’s very effective it keeps the things at low temperature, and water /ice put tastes better.

  • Wicked

    Can’t believe it… only a few hours and people from all over the world posted their very own version of this dessert. Makes you wonder… where did it originate from?

  • http://www.zeusbox,org kuswanto

    Here in Indonesia it’s called “Es Serut” or in english (perhaps) “Grind Ice” i can not find the suitable words.

    I think the origin is from China, where the first ice cream was created.

  • Adrian

    When I was in Japan, I loved small Japanese shops like this. There’s something very idiosyncratic and wonderful about them.

  • Rutger

    Again a very cool arcticle!
    “Schaaf ijs” is how we call it in the Netherlands. There are many people from
    Suriname living here and one of the things they brought here is this type of ice with many tropical flavours.
    In Italy they have “granita”, this is not shaved but crushed ice with syrup. This used to be my favourite when I was a kid.

  • Julia

    i know it from Trinidad & Tobago, where it is called Snow Cone. Realy refreshing on a hot caribbean carnival day :)

  • Jibone

    Interesting, same desert all over the world but with different names, shows that we are all not that different after all.

    As for me I’m for Malaysia, it’s known as ‘Ais Kacang’ or sometimes as ‘ABC’ which stands for ‘Air Batu Campur’ err ‘Mix ice’?

  • chel.

    well yeah. here in Singapore its called Ice Kachang, but there’s a rise in trend for shaved milk ice originating from taiwan. so its like.. frozen flakes of milk instead of ice. when it melts, its milk, not water, so it gives you that creamy taste. The first time i tried it was in Taiwan. I cant remember which state i was in.. was traveling from state to state but i remember it was shihlin night market. Anyway, the original Taiwan made ones are better than the stores set up in S’pore.

  • asinomasimple

    Since everybody’s giving their shout outs, in Peru it’s called “raspadilla” from “raspar” which means to scratch, and the texture is finer than the American Snow Cones, so I guess it’s closer to the japanese version.

  • ahmed

    so its originated from jap… how come it hv spread to so many country.. it will bw better if ping hv another article bout kakigoori.. maybe juz call it kakigoori part2 or history of ka..

  • ahmed

    no offence in the precious comments juz wanna know more bout kakigoori! :)

  • ahmed


  • daisybush

    Although I live in London now, I grew up (on and off) in Hawaii. Matsumoto’s shave ice in Haleiwa was our favourite shave ice shop. I varied my choice of syryp but would always have a small scoop of vanilla ice cream in the base of the come. To me, the texture of American snow cones is very different to shave ice and not as good i think. I feel very nostalgic now – both for shave ice itself and the whole experience of going to Matsumoto’s.

  • Lynnetto

    Its awesome. Seems like for the same food, it appears in some many countries. Amazing.

    In Singapore, its called ICE KACANG. Well… we add a little crushed peanuts on it. Most of the time, at the bottom of the ice, there’s red bean & some other stuffs.

    For more unique ones, there are some with durian toppings.

  • sadotsu

    Anybody said New Zealand yet? Here it’s just called “shaved ice” but the texture isn’t nearly as fine as kakigoori.
    Funny, I saw about ten kakigoori shops around Kiyomizudera in Kyoto…

  • somaninn

    Shaved ice can be found in Cambodia too. I don’t remember the name exactly, but I’m sure it would be too difficult to transcribe it in English…

  • Katherine

    Snow cones here in Australia. Although we only seem to be able to get them in summer at music and outdoor festivals. Also have something similiar that we get from petrol stations that is premixed called slurpies.

  • Sohaila

    Well, in Canada, it’s actually crushed ice. It’s not fine enough to be called shaved. The toppings are usually a fruit, and tangy/sour, snowcones! I really like the Japanese way of doing it, with a variety of flavours.

    Slurpies are mostly juice, sugar, and liquid water, so i’d consider it a beverage, actually ;D.

  • http://... dee

    so good!the cool feel in our mouth…
    i will forget all sad things…especially in summer!

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  • JacksonTan

    In Malaysia we call that ABC. Me like it so so much. That’s why i get a Ice Shave shop in Seremban ( a city in Malaysia. ) In 10 month i sell it over 80k bowls. i call A B C = A Better Choice when u get heat in Summer.

  • gayatri

    amazing stuff……

  • xmanoel

    Amazing documentary, I just simply love all the great reports you made on tradicional japanese traditions (I repeated similar words on the sentence, shame on me). Please continue with your great work at PingMag.

  • spedunit

    In the bronx, the dominican /puerto rican community calls them “Piraquas”

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  • tracy

    hi there,

    where can i find high quality shave ice machines in japan? which brands are the top ones, producing the finest shave ice? how can i locate them and what are ball park prices? yummy!

  • Simin

    Wicked, you’re half right, half wrong. It is indeed called ais kacang (kachang is the old spelling) in Malaysia but it has another name: air batu campur (ABC). Check your facts before you start to correct someone. I’m a Singaporean, not Malaysian, but even I know there are a lot of names for it.

  • dreekc

    Hi, I am from the french west indies (Guadalupe) and here we call it “snow ball” but it is not as fine as the kakigoori.

  • Ting C. H.

    I have the old fashioned manual wrought iron ice shaver for sale – S$250. Email:

  • Ting C. H.

    I have the old fashioned manual wrought iron ice shaver for sale – S$250. Email:, for picture. Can shipped overseas.

  • jorge araya manieu

    te solicito enviar cotizacion y fotografias lo mas claro posible de una maquina para fabricar raspadillas (o pica hielo )

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