Snow cones are called kakigori in Japan. They are slightly different from the snow cones that you find in other countries. Hard, clear ice is shaved with a special machine so that the ice becomes soft and white.
Kakigori is a popular snack for the summer, especially at summer festivals. You can even buy home kakigori-machines. There are several types of flavors that each have a different color. The colors include red (strawberry), yellow (lemon), green (melon), and blue (Blue Hawaii), what flavor “Blue Hawaii” is, I don’t know. These are the four main flavors of Japanese snow cones that you usually find at festivals. Many cafes have green tea flavored kakigori, topped with sweet red bean paste (anko) and small rice cakes (shira-tama).
Kakigori has been enjoyed by Japanese people for about a thousand years. The renowned author of the Heian period (794 – 1185), Sei Shonagon, mentions shaved ice with sweet syrup in her book “Makura no Soushi,” (The Pillow Book), 1002. With no freezer, only rich people who could afford to buy and eat ice. From the Showa period, freezers and the special machines proliferated across the country and became a popular summer snack.
New and different types of kakigori have emerged during these few years. Taiwanese shaved ice is very popular in Japan today. Ice Monster serves delicious Taiwan kakigori. The ice comes on a plate, and you can choose from a variety of flavors such as mango and bubble (tapioca) milk tea. The ice is not made from water, but from fruit juice or tea, so the flavor is much stronger, and the texture of the ice is different. At the 31st Kanagawa Shimbun Fireworks Festival (in Kanagawa prefecture located below Tokyo), I had a chocolate and espresso flavored kakigori. At the bottom of the cup was coffee jelly and vanilla ice cream, covered with shaved ice and chocolate sauce, espresso, and condensed milk poured on top instead of syrup.