Exactly 70 years ago, on July 3, 1951, Japanese people from the capital lined up for softcream for the first time ever. That fateful American Independence Day pre-event later came to be designated Softcream Day in Japan. From being an exciting novelty to triggering a sales boom at the 1970 Osaka Expo, today this sweet treat has carved an important place in Japanese culture. And, seven decades later the bond between Japan and softcream is stronger than ever.
Softcream is Community
Looking at the history of softcream in Japan, there is a thread tying everything together – community. Whether it’s attending the 1951 event, the Osaka expo, or visiting tourist attractions, eating a cone of softcream is a shared moment. In fact, one of the first types of establishments to serve softcream regularly in Showa-era Japan were soba noodle shops with televisions. People would linger after dinner, watching TV and eating softcream – both a rarity at the time. And so the sweet treat joined the rank of social glue, tying a community of all ages together.
Everyone back in 1951 shared that memory of trying a novel dessert, and today everyone trying a unique flavor anywhere across Japan has a shared experience with everyone else who tasted it. Parents and children, loving couples, excited groups of friends, none of them know each other but when they line up for the same softcream, they’re sharing a special moment only found in Japan. Whether you sample Miyazaki’s mango flavor, Chiba’s peanut flavor or Hokkaido’s melon flavor, softcream is one of the joys of travel in Japan. These flavors convey to travelers what the area is the most proud of, and that is what these local communities want to share with everyone coming to visit. And the flavors stay with us as memories.
Softcream is an Ongoing Adventure
No one knows exactly how many softcream flavors are out there, so one can only keep exploring and discovering. My memories of Okinawa still taste of sea salt softcream, among other things, and my trip to Ibaraki will always taste of wonderful soy sauce softcream. Here at Tokyo Weekender we have strengthened our own community around shared softcream experiences, as well as learned about its history and traits.
We started a whole softcream YouTube adventure, where we travel across Japan to see great tourist spots and eat unique softcream flavors. Thanks to Nissei, our sponsor and Japan’s biggest and oldest softcream maker, the series on the TW YouTube channel dives deeper, climbs higher and travels further to bring you the best of this sweet treat.
Join us, Tokyo Weekender’s community is your community.
Illustration by Rose Vittayaset
Read more about softcream:
- A Scoop of History: The Evolution of Softcream
- What Sets Japan’s Softcream Apart from Regular Ice Cream?
- Softcream Trivia: A Fun Look Into All Layers of Japan’s Most Beloved Ice Cream