Confession: on more than one occasion I’ve held up the line for softcream, indecisive among all of the flavors. In 1950, when softcream was introduced to Japan, indecisiveness was probably not an issue as there was but one flavor to choose from. How did we get from one to a myriad of tantalizing flavors? Here’s a bit of Nissei softcream history.

On July 3, 1951, people went crazy for the new vanilla-tasting cold dessert on offer at an American Independence Day pre-event in Tokyo. Refrigerators were still rare at the time, so the novelty was the cool, refreshing softcream itself, rather than the flavor.

Over a decade later in the ‘60s, buying softcream involved choosing a flavor from the now classic trio – vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. In 1967 Nissei also introduced the swirl type dubbed “double flavor,” a godsend to the indecisive and the curious among us.

At the Osaka World Trade Fair 1970 all new and cool things were on display, and that included 200 freezers dispensing softcream, 110 of which were provided by Nissei, triggering the second boom of softcream in Japan.

A French-inspired phrase, MieuxCreme means “better cream” because when it was launched in 1983 it improved on the previously less milky softcream, making history with its 5% milk fat content. This game-changer aimed for a richer and milkier taste. 

The ‘90s brought the explosion of flavors that keeps on giving to this day, many drawing on the local produce every area is proud of. In 1990 Nissei also introduced their ‘sofore’ softcream mix made with 60% high quality raw milk. In 1994, they created their Hokkaido softcream, locally inspired, but used nationwide. 

The 21st century meant innovation. In 2013 Nissei debuted their award-winning Cremia, a luxurious softcream made with 25% fresh cream and 12.5% milk fat content, served in a delicate langues de chat cone. The sweet treat started with milk flavor, then chocolate was added, and recently caramel, and of course all combinations of those three are available in a unique Cremia-swirl type.

Introduced in 2015, the Japan Premium softcream uses only the best of the best fruit producers to create a mix of excellence. For example, specifically using Amaou strawberries from Fukuoka, or Miyazaki mango.

The year 2020 saw the latest development in Nissei softcream with ‘wa’ ingredients that represent Japan so well. A brand new delicate azuki beans flavor is served in national colors white and red cone, with paper sleeves showcasing kimono patterns and traditional art.

As we move into a new decade, I look forward to the choosing from the softcream flavors and inventions that are yet to come…

Illustration by Bunny Bissoux