If you love ice cream or “soft cream”, as it is sometimes called, you should definitely visit Japan. As a foreigner here it is amazing to see the range of flavors and varieties of this tasty treat that the Japanese serve up.
While there are many cafes and fantastic ice cream shops serving great ice creams, the variety you can find in your local convenience store (called conbini in Japanese) is equally surprising. There are brands and styles that date back decades and are considered favorites. Also, Japanese ice cream companies are masters of producing new, exciting and limited edition flavors depending on the season. Ice cream can be eaten all year round in Japan, but of course it is very popular in the hot summer months.
Japanese ice cream makers also consider the packaging when making their products. They all want their products to be “eye catching” and stand out. So, often the packages will feature well-known characters that are famous in Japan as well as counting on celebrity endorsements to promote their products. When researching different ice creams to tell you about, it was difficult to know where to start as there is way too much choice.
If you are looking for good value, all of the ice creams bought were very reasonably priced. Most often under 200 yen, which is a little less than two dollars. Some were even cheaper than that. Different varieties that were reviewed included: traditional chocolate, flavored fruit ices, creamy cup styles and multi-layered and flavored cone styles. Some of the ice creams that were reviewed can be found in any of Japan’s top convenience stores.
Let’s start with fruit ice style.
This icy treat comes as small, round balls in a cylinder. It is very convenient as you can eat as many as you like or save the rest for later. This one is from the Morinaga company and is grape flavored. It is very refreshing and the makers have got the flavor profile just right. If you like grape, we really recommend you try this delicious fruit ice.
Next up is the classic named Pino. Again from the Morinaga company, but this one has been around since 1976. It can best be described as very soft and creamy vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate. It is bite size, so it’s very easy to eat all on a nice summer night. Also, Pino is not at all heavy, nor is it too sweet.
After that we will look at an ice cream in a cup. This one is from the company Glico and the flavor is mint chocolate. Mint Chocolate by the way is one of the special flavors of summer time. The locals believe that minty chocolate snacks make you feel cooler and that is an important state of mind during these long scorching days. In addition to ice cream you will find mint-chocolate snacks and drinks of all types during the hottest months.
The flavor profile on this one is very minty, but the chocolate balances well throughout. This ice cream could be eaten all at once however the sweetness could be quite a lot for some people, so best to keep the peel off lid and you can always finish it the next time you want to eat ice cream.
Of course, this round up of the ice creams couldn’t be finished without reviewing a cone style treat. Japan has so many different ones to choose from, so it was difficult to pick just one!
We decided to look at The Giant. This ice cream has a traditional waffle-style cone base so it is quite sweet.
Giant make a number of flavors, but I couldn’t go past the caramel as it was also a limited edition.
This ice cream cone was packed with rich vanilla ice cream, oozing with caramel sauce, loaded with chocolate and topped with crunchy nuts. Talk about a flavor bomb. Each bite you take seems to bring you to a different taste sensation. This one is really sweet, but great to try for those who want to experience many different flavors in one dessert.
There were so many other fantastic seasonal flavors and styles, but you would need a lot of time as well as a serious sweet tooth just to get through half of them. When you are in Japan drop in to any local convenience store and check out the amazing range of frozen treats on offer. You won’t be disappointed and may just find yourself a surprising new hidden gem.
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