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Japanese Ice Cream Is a Sweet Summer Treat With Surprising Variety

Lindi BrownellLindi Brownell
Published Time
Posted on 
July 08, 2021
Modified Time
Updated last 
June 21, 2022

From the summery sight of bright green matcha ice cream topping a crunchy cone to the bite-sized bliss of Japanese convenience store favorites like Pino, the list of exciting ice cream flavors and textures on offer in Japan is seemingly endless.

Not only does ice cream in Japan come in a variety of forms and textures, but the number of unique flavors available is enough to excite any sweet tooth! 

While the familiar flavors like chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and green tea continue to be firm favorites all over the world, there are a range of crazy unique flavors that are worth a shot the next time you visit Japan. Think soy sauce, garlic, wasabi, cactus, crab, and even chicken wing ice cream, (a Nagoya specialty).

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If you’re looking for the ultimate selection of flavors to choose from, you’ll need to pay a visit to Shokujidokoro Musashi in Yamaguchi’s Iwakuni.

This legendary ice cream shop started off small when it originally opened more than 20 years ago, but today, you’ll be able to choose from over 100 different soft serve flavors, from Hokkaido Vanilla, Matcha Azuki, and Mentaiko to Black Sesame Soy Milk, Strawberry Daifuku, and Banana Kinako.

In Kanazawa, which is known as the ice cream capital of Japan, you will find a range of must-try options, including soft serve covered in gold leaf. It is also where Kanazawa Ice was first invented by Professor Tomihisa Ota of Kanazawa University. It's a special ice cream that cleverly uses a compound found in strawberries to stop it from melting in the summer heat!

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Over and above exciting soft serve flavor combinations, icy Japanese desserts come in a variety of fun forms, many of which are available in convenience stores across the country.

This includes a ‘drinkable’ ice cream in the form of Coolish by Lotte, which is packaged in a nifty pouch with a nozzle. Coolish is typically available in flavors such as Vanilla and Milk Coffee. 

Glico’s Giant Cone, one of the most popular cone options in Japan, comes in seven delectable flavors, including Caramel Macchiato, Choco Choco Peanut, and Rich Fukumi Matcha. 

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The iconic chocolate-covered Morinaga & Co. Pino ice cream bites, which originally launched in 1976, are available in flavors like classic vanilla and Amaou strawberry. Also produced by Morinaga & Co. is MOW, a cup-based ice cream made with milk from Hokkaido. 

Vanilla ice cream is the main attraction of Meiji’s Essel Super Cup Ultra Vanilla, released in 1994, while the multiple layers of Glico’s Panapp offering is another flavorful favorite. Many of Häagen-Dazs’s ice creams include limited-edition or seasonal flavors, from Sakura to Honey Potato and Matcha Chocolate Cookie. 

The Suika Bar is also a great on-the-go summer snack. Resembling a watermelon slice, this refreshing watermelon-flavored popsicle replaces seeds with chocolate chips. 

Looking for a different texture? Mochi ice cream is a uniquely Japanese option that’s well worth a try! 

You’ll find numerous recipes for mochi ice cream online, and it is something that will often pop up in searches for Japanese ice cream. Lotte’s Yukimi Daifuku, is a seasonal mochi-covered ice cream available in a variety of flavors. While the larger versions can be bought in the colder months (yukimi means snow-viewing), the smaller versions can be found year round.

 Lotte’s version of mochi ice cream originally made use of rice milk, whereas mochi ice cream as we know it was invented in the US by the late Frances Hashimoto, who headed up her family’s now 111-year-old Japanese confectionary business, Mikawaya, in Los Angeles. 

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The small, sweet treat features different ice cream flavors covered in a soft mochi dough. Mikawaya’s flavor offering has expanded significantly since its original launch in Hawaii in 1994, and now includes delicious options like Green Tea, Red Bean, Black Sesame, Plum Wine, Mango, Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate, and Mint Chip, to name a few.

Whether you’re a fan of creamy soft serve or prefer the icy crunch of a sweet popsicle, there are countless exciting ice creams on offer in Japan. Which one are you planning to try this summer? Let us know in the comments!

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