At the peak of summer in the concrete jungle of Tokyo, when the temperatures are high and the cries of cicadas are reaching the season’s crescendo, people everywhere seek an oasis to fight the heat. One traditional means of cooling off involves eating a delicious treat made out of ice: Kakigori, the Japanese shaved ice dessert. Since coming to Japan several years ago I've been interested in trying it but never got the chance to eat it. So to find out LIVE JAPAN went out to check a popular kakigori place in Tokyo, located in Sugamo, an area known as the Harajuku of grandmothers.
More Than Just Ice
Cold desserts usually make me think of ice cream or sorbets, and when I think desserts made from ice I usually imagine a typical snow cone. While kakigori sounds similar, I heard the way they shave the ice very thinly is what makes it completely different.
A Small Cozy Shop with a Lot of Fame
The shop we visited was called “Atelier-Sekka” which sounds like a frozen sweets factory. This little shop has been running for two years. After gaining popularity through TV and various media, at peak times people actually line up for a good 2 hours especially on the weekends during the summer. Further intrigued after learning this, we stepped inside.
Sekka’s interior had many nice wooden tables and even had an indoor wooden deck like area almost giving it a summer-like outdoors feel. The shop also had a lot of cute decorations including a bunch of stuffed animals and the shops own cute mascot rabbit “Smith” taken from the word “blacksmith” to match their factory theme.
The Art of Crafting Desserts
Towards the back of the kitchen you can see some interesting equipment, two large machines with hand cranks sitting in the open for all to see. The shop focuses on many aspects of kakigori from using ice made with Mount Fuji’s natural spring ice, which tastes different and melts slower, to making their own syrups using fruit and other fresh ingredients.
Placing a cube of ice into the device, with every rotation of the circular crank, finely shaved flakes of ice rapidly filled the bowl below it. Between several layers, the maker added layers of syrup, as if weaving flavor into the big mountain of shaved ice. Afterwards a final top layer gets applied to complete the beautiful and delicious looking masterpiece.
A Mountain of Flavor and Refreshment
The first kakigori served was a dark green matcha (green tea) flavored bowl, priced at 700 yen. With the first spoonful I tasted the strong yet slightly sweet flavor of matcha, but what really left an impact was how the soft ice gently melted, the cool sensation delightfully seeped my mouth almost like an icy cotton candy.
The one we tried next was covered in their hand made strawberry sauce, filled with fruity bits of strawberry being sweet with a hint of sour. This fresh strawberry milk kakigori costs 800 yen. Between the layers of this kakigori was condensed milk, giving it a mild combination of milk and strawberries. The shop offers sides of condensed milk for free with any kakigori, so try adding some extra to your liking.
True to Their Style
In an age of high tech machines, Sekka pursues and sticks to the path of the handmade tradition. They put a lot of care into making their own fresh toppings and even specialize in using natural ice of Mount Fuji. They’ve also got a large assortment of flavors to choose from. It’s no wonder people line up for this place! They even offer limited time flavors depending on the season, the shop owner constantly wants new flavors available for people to try out. If you get the chance to come to Sugamo on a hot day, definitely visit this spot just a short walk from the station itself. I know I want to come back again to try out all the different types of kakigori! While kakigori is normally eaten during summer, Atelier-Sekka is open year-round serving this delicious treat deligently, so come by anytime to try it out yourself!
Hours: 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.(Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays open from 10 a.m.)
Atelier-Sekka かき氷工房 雪菓
- Address 3 Chome-37-6 Sugamo Toshima-ku, Tōkyō-to 170-0002