I've always had a fascination with ice creams in Japan, more specifically, ice cream in cones. Called soft cream ('so-fu-to-ku-ri-mu') or soft ('so-fu-to') in short, they are can be found at almost every tourist destination. Basically they come in biscuit cones or waffle cones, and some shops have the option of cups as well.
Apart from chocolate, strawberry and vanilla flavors, fruity ones like blueberry, grape, mango, orange ice creams, uniquely Japanese ones like black sesame, green tea, roasted green tea, are also found in shopping districts. It is not uncommon to find a shop selling more than ten flavors. An ice cream shop along the popular Asakusa Shopping Street in Tokyo has thirty flavors, and one shop at Kintai Bridge, Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture has a whooping hundred flavors! Every time I travel to Japan, I would attempt to try a different flavor. Here are some of my recommendations.
One of my favorites, sakura ice cream is commonly available during cherry blossom season in spring. The sakura ice cream in front of Yoshino Station, Nara Prefecture, has a refreshing light taste to it. The sakura taste was just right, not too strong nor light, and there was the option to pair it with Japanese mugwort (yomogi in Japanese), an Asian plant series in the sunflower family, which blended well with sakura.
Being the largest producer of sweet potatoes in Japan, Kagoshima is the “Land of Sweet potatoes”. Along the banks of Lake Ikeda, the largest lake on Kyushu Island, sweet potato ice cream are available. Small chunks of sweet potatoes are mixed in along with the ice cream.
Miso is widely used in both traditional and modern Japanese cooking. If you are a fan of miso soup, why not try some miso ice cream? Found in Nara Park, it tasted slightly salty.
Another of my favourites, is houjicha (roasted green tea). Kyoto is a city known for its tea, and its many shops there sell ice cream which is thicker than the usual tea flavors in Tokyo or Osaka.
One I missed trying was squid ink ice cream. The lady at the tourist booth in Tottori Train Station told me that it was only found at Uradome Coast. Upon reaching there, the shop was already closed for the day. I look forward to trying it in future!
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I still clearly remember the day I first landed in Japan, and since then it has been my goal to set foot in all 47 prefectures. I try to look for less touristy areas, preferring the countryside to the city. I'm always amazed by the many Haagen Dazs and ice cream flavors available only in Japan.