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What is Japanese Shaved Ice?

August 21, 2017

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For this week’s video, we’re going to show you a bit about shaved ice in Japan, which we’re totally digging lately. It’s not the best shaved ice, mind you. We’ve had some amazing shaved ice at Ice Monster in Taiwan, and Patbingsu in Korea, and even some really great shaved ice in other parts of Japan, but today we’re showing you the bare bones version of shaved ice, which is actually not quite bad.

In a nutshell, the shaved ice we’re showing you today is just the shavings of an ice block with some fruity syrup squirted on it. That’s all. It doesn’t have condensed milk on it. It doesn’t have fruit and treats on it. No cereals. No red beans. The shavings aren’t made out of milk. Just ice and syrup. And though it sounds basic, really basic, it’s absolutely lovely on really hot and humid days. The shaved ice we’re showing you today is really refreshing, and kinda makes me feel guilt-free, considering how abundantly caloric other kinds of shaved ice are.

Supposedly Shimokitazawa is great for shaved ice. When we were looking into it, there used to be a map of Kakigori shops around Shimokitazawa. We couldn’t find it though, but it’s not really necessary. Within a few minutes of walking we found four different places. This one had outdoor seating, and an old fashioned ice shaver, so we decided to shoot at this shop. Other shops we found had the automated machines, which I just feel don’t have the same charm as the old-timey spinny shavermabob. I’m sure they might taste the same but my strong hipster tendencies urge me to appreciate analog a lot more.

If you walk down from Shimokitazawa station towards Frankie’s Coffee (which is a great coffee shop, by the way. Their cold brew is delicious), and turn left towards the Soup Curry shop, you’ll find a small little kind of park, which is the best way I can describe it. It’s got small Volkswagon Trucks and has the vibe of a food truck gathering. It’s got benches and chairs and tables and is great for sitting around and people watching. One of the trucks there serve this style of shaved ice as well, and it was this place that inspired us to shoot this video. It was closed when we went to shoot, though. There was a kind of festival happening at the time, and this little area was giving free samples of sours, and I’m assuming those sours were alcoholic. It was all pretty cool. Shimokitazawa overall is a really cool area, and if we didn’t live in Kichijoji I think we’d really like living in Shimokitazawa, which feels a little like the Hongdae of old, before it became overrun with franchises that are starting to detract from Hongdae’s original spirit. Hopefully, if you get to visit Tokyo, you can explore Shimokitazawa a bit as well and get a feel of what we’re talking about.

Funny story here: we filmed this video on Saturday, right before a torrential opening of the heavens descended upon us. It had hail! It had flood warnings! It was intense. We talk a bit about it in this week’s podcast. At the same time, though, we had planned on shooting another video on Saturday at around the same time. There’s a vegan restaurant we planned on shooting. Vegans rejoice! I know we said for a while that we were looking for a place, and I think we found one, finally. Others that we tried really, umm, suck at cooking. But this place seems legit. We didn’t get to film it, though, because it was hot and we’re old and we don’t have the sprightly energy that we once had where we could film and edit all day. That turned out to be good luck for us, because if we did push ourselves to film that vegan place, we’d have been caught in the storm. And I don’t know why that’s noteworthy for a blog post, but we’re simpler people now, and avoiding a big rainstorm is a win for us. So there!

If you’d like to check out the place we went to, the place is called UBUTAKO SIMOKITAZAWA(うぶたこ 下北沢), and the address is 〒1550031 東京都世田谷区Kitazawa, 2 Chome−33, 北沢2-33-8第二片柳ビル1F. If you copy and paste that into Google Maps it should show you how to get there. If you’re looking for some extra scenes, you can find them below!

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What is Japanese Shaved Ice?

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  1. They looked so yummy and refreshing. The video made me want one despite it being frosty and cold here in Aus when I watched the video last night rugged up in a blanket :P

    3 months ago
  2. I like shaved ice when it’s got fruit or cheesecake in them. There’s one that opened 3 blocks from my house that makes really good matcha shaved ice where they infused matcha into the ice instead of sprinkling matcha at the top. My only problem with some of the shaved ice and other dessert places here in Vancouver is that they insist in having how many products with mangoes, and I flat out hate the taste of mangoes.

    3 months ago
  3. Man, this video just FLEW by because the soundtrack was just boppin’ the whole way, nice choice. Nice filmography on the ice shaving and man, pina colada sounds great for shaved ice. The rum might be nice but might also melt the ice faster. When I saw that the bloopers/extras was 2min long, I went and grabbed a Mr. Freeze from the freezer because, thanks to you, I could no longer resist ;) By the way, I don’t think that it’s so much that when you get older that you don’t bounce back from lack of sleep or getting soaked, etc. as much, it’s more that you resent the recovery time more. When you’re young, spending a day doing nothing and recovering seems…..more fun? because you didn’t plan that far ahead anyways? When you get older, you feel like you’re missing doing other fun things on that recovery day so it kind of ticks you off more.

    3 months ago
  4. I love that you guys talk about texture when you talk about food. Texture is REALLY important and it’s something that gets overlooked a lot. I actually really like the texture of American shaved ice, I like crunching the bejesus out of it, it’s so satisfying. I can imagine the texture of these little flakies of shaved ice that you are having in Japan, though, and I bet it is wonderful. I loved the ice shaver machine as well, I’m glad you decided to go old school. I wish shaved ice (even American style) was a little more prevalent in my area and wasn’t just something that is a stand at a fair or swap meet event.. I would love a slightly less guilty feeling if I go out for treats :(. There is a place nearby that does fro-yo and mixes it with something similar to an ice slush treat, but I always end up making those really over the top with candies and syrups. Ah well!

    Thank you for the video, great as always! Sorry it’s so hot and humid, I looked up the temp translation, over 98F with high humidity!! We had stuff like that back in Indiana, where I am from. I lived close to the lakes so the hot sun like boils the water up into the air, it’s awful. I live in CA now, and the difference between dry heat and humidity heat is cray. Stay cool!

    3 months ago
  5. The idea of shaved ice does not appeal to me at all. It looks like somebody shaved the ice off the inside of a freezer and squirted some syrup on top. I never tried it though. However, after experiencing Tokyo’s heat in August last year, I guess I can understand :) I stayed for 3 weeks but a bit longer and I might have bought the whole ice cube and carry it around. But I enjoyed the video as usual and now I’m googling “watermelon earrings” :)

    3 months ago