Last Chance for Shaved Ice… or is it?

The end of summer vacation is in sight, and the weather seems to be conspiring. With average temperatures since the weekend hovering around 27 degrees (down from the mid 30s a week ago), it’s hard to believe its still August. At this rate, we can expect the disappearance of these quaint little blue-and-red banners from storefronts any day:

The "ice" flag (read: Shaved Ice Sold Within)

Summer is the season of kakigori (かき氷 – shaved ice). First recorded in writings from the Heian Period (784-1185), this popular icy treat continues to make an annual appearance in cafes, convenience stores and festival stalls across Japan from June through August. It comes in fruity flavors like melon and peach (my favorite is strawberry with condensed milk), as well as Japanese classics like macha (green tea) and azuki (sweet bean).

If, like me, you find yourself experiencing the childish desire for shaved ice season to last forever, you might consider making your own. Kakigori ki (かき氷機 – shaved ice machines) are available in a number of colors and models at house ware purveyors (think AEON, Komeri, Don Qihote and PLANT 3). Until this year, I had always dismissed this kind of thing as a silly extravagance, but I was surprised to see how cheap they were. Even without end of summer discounts, you can expect to spend between 900 and 3000 yen (those that are electric or are covered with images of Pikachu, Anpanman, or Micky Mouse tend to run a little higher than the plain, hand-crank varieties).

My electric shaved ice machine was 1900 yen at PLANT 3 in Tsubata.

Ingredients are surprisingly simple – just ice (most machines are fine with regular old ice cubes) and syrup. For that brightly colored carnival effect, flavored syrups are available at most grocery stores. Alternatively, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can make your own! For a homemade plum syrup recipe, check out Hokuriku Expat Kitchen.  Go enjoy the stuffing out of summer – and, as always, happy cooking.

Kakigori with homemade plum sauce and condensed milk. I wish I had done this much earlier.

Chelsea is a second year CIR in Tsubata. She writes a blog, and will probably be posting shaved ice recipes through December.


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