Summer in Kyoto is known for the intense heat. Good thing, there's always kakigoori (shaved ice) to beat the heat and feel refreshed. Here are five recommended shops in Kyoto where you can get tasty kakigoori.
1. Umezono CAFE & GALLERY
Umezono CAFE & GALLERY was opened in 2010 by Umezono, an old sweets shop that was built in 1927. The inside of this shop, which is a traditional Kyoto townhouse that was converted into a cafe, has a Western flare with large windows on white walls and an open ceiling, giving it an expansive atmosphere. The gallery next to the cafe showcases handcrafted items and accessories, among other products. Their hugely popular kakigoori has thinly shaved, fluffy ice and a creamy taste, and comes in eight flavors – Uji milk, Uji kintoki (matcha), Uji shiratama (glutinous rice balls), Uji shiruko (sweet bean soup), milk kintoku, milk shiratama, milk shiruko and brown sugar. For an extra charge, you can top your kakigoori with shiratama, matcha ice cream, unpeeled boiled chestnuts, and warabimochi (dumplings made from bracken starch). Aside from kakigoori, however, this cafe also has an extensive menu of original dishes such as its specialty mitarashi dango (dumplings coated with soy sauce and sugar syrup), matcha (green tea) pancakes, and namafu (fresh seitan) parfaits, so try them all.
Built in 1948, Yajikita is a sweets shop that has been loved by people in Kyoto as a shop where they can taste flavors from the old days, including zenzai (red bean soup made with azuki beans), anmitsu (syrup-covered bean jam and fruits), and awa shiruko (chestnuts in sweet bean soup) that is only available in winter. The kakigoori served here all year round has gained a reputation for its rich variety and volume. In particular, the matcha Ujikintoki kakigoori is recommended. The handmade matcha syrup, in which the green tea is mixed only after ordering, has a rich aroma and deep taste. The distinct bitter taste draws out the sweetness of the azuki red beans at the bottom of the bowl. With its fluffy ice with a fine texture that melts in your mouth, this kakigoori feels light despite its volume. Yujikita’s shop has no air conditioning in order to make your kakigoori even more delicious, but the refreshing cool feeling you get after you eat their kakigoori will melt away that nasty summer heat.
3. Nijowakasaya - Teramachi Branch
Nijowakasaya - Teramachi Branch was opened 2013 by Nijowakasaya, a traditional Japanese sweets shop known for the artistic beauty of its confectioneries. The first floor of this branch is a shop that sells seasonal Japanese sweets and regular items, just like the main branch. Meanwhile, the second floor is a teahouse where you can have a taste of the classic confectioneries such as Japanese sweets in season, zenzai, and anmitsu. Out of all the items they have here, however, what is recommended is the kakigoori that you can enjoy all throughout the year. The ice in this kakigoori is made from frozen underground water that has been chosen as one of the selected best waters of Japan. It is carefully shaved by hand without using a machine, so it has that melt-in-your-mouth texture and soft flavor. On top of the classic Ujikintoki (green tea), hojicha (roasted green tea), and kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup), this shop also serves seasonal kakigoori such as strawberry, lemon, and sudachi (type of Japanese citrus) kakigoori, so you can taste different flavors whenever you visit. They also have pumpkin kakigoori in autumn, chocolate kakigoori in winter, and other flavors that you will not see on the menu of other shops, so try them if you can.
Kyohashiya is a shop dedicated to tea founded in Kanazawa in 1753 that made a foray into Uji in Kyoto in 1878 by opening a tea garden there. This cafe, located near the Keihan Main Line’s Sanjo Station, is famous for its delicious tea and confectioneries that use high-quality matcha and hojicha. It draws large numbers of customers all the time. Based on its concept of “ingesting the abundant nutrients in tea leaves by not just drinking the tea but also eating the tea leaves,” the various matcha sweets this shop has concocted are all rich in aroma and gentle on the body. Among its delicacies, its specialty kakigoori will burn off the summer heat and refresh your mind and body. And out of all the kakigoori in this shop, the “osukori” is the most recommended. Made with fluffy ice, its sheer volume may overwhelm you, but when you taste the exquisite combination of the bittersweet taste of the homemade matcha syrup and the sweetness of the ice cream, you will surely dig in for more.
5. Sabo Kogetsu
Born in 1953, Kogetsu caused a stir in the world of Japanese confectionery when it aggressively incorporated butter and cream into their products, ingredients which were considered major taboos when making Japanese sweets during those times. Its leading product “Senju Senbei” has been a much-loved specialty since its debut, transcending generations. At the Sabo Kogetsu on the second floor of the Kogetsu – Karasuma Branch at the Shijo-Karasuma Intersection, you can enjoy kakigoori at anytime of the year. While this shop only has two kakigoori flavors – Ujikintoki (green tea) and kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup), that is actually what gives it that sense of dedication to kakigoori. The thick mound of ice covered with syrup is so mild in flavor that you will not feel like you have had enough. The puffy azuki beansare shiny and have just the right amount of sweetness. The mochi on the side also has a soft texture. You will surely be impressed by such high quality! Plus, it’s in an easy accessible place, so when you are sightseeing, you should definitely take a break here.
Doesn’t kakigoori that can drive away the heat of summer sound like a good idea? Note that there many other shops serving unique kakigoori in Kyoto. So when you feel tired from sightseeing, how about heading to a teahouse or cafe for some kakigoori? You’ll surely find one you like.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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