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