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Headline

The Voice of Tokyo for over 50 Years

JAPAN’S NO.1 ENGLISH LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE

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The Titillating Story of Japan’s “Boob Ice Cream”

By Cezary Jan Strusiewicz

The history of ice cream in Japan starts in 1869 at the Korimizu-ya restaurant in Yokohama. The first Japanese ice cream, known as “aisukurin,” was very simple. Initially made with milk, sugar and egg yolk (later, shaved ice was added to the recipe), it was closer to a chilled custard that came in a small glass cup and which, in today’s money, cost over ¥8,000 per serving. Things have obviously changed a lot since then and Japanese ice cream is now a treat available at rock-bottom prices. Interestingly, one of the cheapest Japanese frozen desserts ever was the colorfully named “Boob Ice Cream.”

The internet is full of exaggerated or simply made-up stories of “weird Japan” but “oppai aisu” (which literally and unambiguously translates to “Boob Ice Cream”) is very real. It’s a vanilla or milk-flavored product that originally used to cost around ¥30 to ¥60 in modern currency. More importantly, though, it comes packed in a rubber balloon that does kind of resemble a breast, if you squint a bit. That imagery quickly becomes terrifying, though, considering that you eat oppai aisu by cutting or biting off its tip to create a hole in the balloon and then sucking out the ice cream inside. So, the name and type of container aside, this is basically the same thing as Lotte’s Coolish, Glico’s Papico, and other Japanese squeezable ice creams, right? Basically yes, but there’s more to the story of oppai aisu.

 

 

A rubber balloon might seem like an unusual container for food for a number of reasons, the least of which not being its resemblance to a prophylactic. But in the late 1950s and early 1960s, rubber-balloon foods were all the rage in Japan following the Ministry of Health and Welfare Notification No. 370, which legalized this kind of unique packaging. During the mid-Showa Period (1926-1989), everything seemed to be available in a rubber balloon variety: jelly, pudding, natto, miso, and, of course, ice cream. The first producer of Boob Ice-Cream was Kubota, but there was soon a lot of competition that kept the “ice cream sold in balloons” idea but skipped the suggestive name. That’s why oppai aisu might be the original but the dessert is now known under many different names, such as “Egg Ice Cream,” “Balloon Ice Cream,” or “Bomb Ice Cream.”

The primary producer of food-safe rubber balloon containers has long been the Fuji Latex company, though it apparently took them a while to perfect the recipe. According to some testimonies of Japanese people who enjoyed oppai aisu during the Showa Period, the product tended to have a strong, unpleasant rubber smell to it, and you needed to be very careful when opening it up. If you made the hole too big, it would quickly become wider and wider. And since the ice cream inside was reportedly softer than Coolish, this often resulted in the dessert spilling out of its container into a puddle of sweetened milk and children’s tears on the street.

 

 

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Thankfully, the rubber balloons soon became sturdier and odorless. Subsequently, Boob, Egg, Balloon and other types grew into a childhood staple for many Japanese people. And the thing is, they never went anywhere. The popularity of the dessert has definitely waned over the years but Kubota still sells the original product under the original name, though now with a polar bear on the packaging. The price might have changed as well, but at 108 yen (when buying in bulk), oppai aisu is still very affordable. Nowadays, it’s primarily available online, but some stores and restaurants still carry it to give their customers a taste of nostalgia. That being said, you probably won’t see Boob Ice Cream at many family restaurants because of the raunchy name. You’re more likely to find it in eateries like gyoza shops outside big-city centers catering to blue-collar workers.

Besides Kubota, there is also Imuraya Confectionery which still produces its own version of the rubber balloon treats. In the past, it even partnered with Disney for a limited-edition Egg Ice Cream featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse on the packaging. So, if you ever get the chance, try some polar bear boob or mouse egg ice cream, then tell people about it without any context and enjoy the horrified expressions on their faces.