September fools us into thinking it’s fall, but the lingering hot weather tells us otherwise. To cool down, make a pilgrimage to some of our favorite Japanese ice cream, gelato and shaved ice shops in the city.
The Story: This new addition to Shimokitazawa’s trendy eatery selection is a shaved ice shop with a difference. Gram Factory isn’t shy about how it wants you to let everyone know about it: the store front simply reads #Gram, hashtag included.
Why We Love Them: Its chic, ceiling-to-floor white tile interior coupled with a counter crowded with rainbow-filled jars of every kind of colorful candy and glorious topping makes it a savvy social media snapper’s heaven.
What to Try If you want to unleash your creativity and mix and match to your heart’s content, go for the milk base called #milkgram, which works as an empty canvas. For those less creatively inclined, the #OREOgram is a hard-to-resist cookie-covered mountain of decadence.
The Story: Opened in collaboration with Kuki Sangyo Corporation, purveyor of sesame products, Gomaya Kuki has set out to be the number one sesame ice cream maker
in the world.
Why We Love Them: Not only is the rich, creamy flavor of the Japanese ice cream delicious, sesame is also a great source of magnesium and a plethora of other minerals, so it’s (almost) a healthy treat.
What to Try: Kuro Cho Noukou (Kuro Super Rich) uses about 9,000 black sesame seeds, making it the ultimate sesame-flavored sweet.
The Story: A fairytale in the making, this coffee house boutique started with the serendipitous meeting of three dance class students in 1950s New York City with barely 300 dollars between them. Over 60 years later, already named a “legendary dessert destination” in the Big Apple, they opened their Japanese flagship store halfway across the world.
Why We Love Them: The interior is a playful mix of nostalgic old-timey ice cream parlor and Mad Hatter’s art gallery, giving it a fun, whimsical feel.
What to Try: Both the Matcha Ice Cream Frrrozen Hot Chocolate and the Cherry Pie Sundae are Japan-only offerings, and are perfect choices for making people back home feel jealous.
The Story: This latte specialty shop-meets-art gallery is a cozy hideaway from the busy streets of Shimokitazawa. Over the last few years, they’ve branched out to offer exclusive barista-made kakigori, all year-round.
Why We Love Them: Not only do they serve great coffee, they also provide a venue for the meeting of minds, where people can come together and discuss art – both of the latte and the traditional kind.
What to Try: The espresso shaved ice is a sensory experience. Pour freshly brewed espresso over the milk-flavored ice flakes and watch it soak up the caffeinated black gold before your eyes, as the aroma fills the room. As if that weren’t enough, a rich coffee jelly treat awaits at the bottom.
The Story: This New York-style Japanese ice cream shop opened in June this year and has become a fast favorite for Harajuku-bound youngsters looking for an Instagrammable treat.
Why We Love Them: With four ice cream flavors, 20 mix-in ingredients, 10 sauces, and more than 40 toppings to choose from, every visit is a new flavor experience.
What to Try: Use your imagination and make your own special combo – that’s the beauty of this place. For those who find it difficult to make decisions, choose one of the shop’s recommended combinations. We like Yokan Whisper, which is a full-on Japanese flavor explosion of green tea ice cream, shiratama, yokan, kinako and kuromitsu.
This article appears in the September 2017 issue of Tokyo Weekender magazine.