Eat kakigori to get through the summer! An indispensable item at summer festivals

When muggy summers come in Japan, we tend to feel like eating kakigori.
Kakigori is a shaved ice dessert, or snow cone, that flavored syrup is poured on ice shaved or crushed by machine. It is a popular and standard sweet sold at a stand when there are festivals and fireworks. It calls only for two things -ice and syrup, very simple but exquisite when you eat it in midsummer.


To make kakigori, we need a special machine for it. An ice shaving machine spins a block of ice while shaving with special blades. The machine type varies from one for business use which can crush a huge chunk of ice, to a compact one for household use which can make snow cones easily at home.

The texture changes just how to shave it and is classified mainly into two categories; fluffy or crunchy. It depends on the size of ice grain. When its size is small, kakigori becomes fluffy and when big, it becomes crunchy. Those are determined by the blade angle. The degree of hardness of ice is also important. The harder the ice is, the thinner layer we can shave, which makes snow cone fluffier.
Although everybody has their own favorite, a popular type of kakigori sold at stores is fluffy in Japan.


We used to eat kakigori with syrup a while ago but it becomes popular that various fruits and others are added as a topping. People enjoy their own favorite kakigori by topping lots of fruits and ice cream on fluffily shaved ice or by pouring several types of syrup to make it colorful. Strawberry and mango syrups are standard but the most favored type of shaved ice dessert is a Japanese-style one like matcha (green tea) syrup topped with red bean paste and shiratama, or rice-flour dumplings. Sweetened condensed milk is a popular topping as well. It is fun to compare by eating each shop’s unique Japanese-style shaved ice when a summer comes.

In the meantime, have you ever had a headache when eating a snow cone? Anybody who has ever experienced the phenomenon once when ate kakigori and it is medically called an ice-cream headache.There are two causes of the headache.

One is that a food colder than expected conveys wrong information to nerves.
The other is that too cold stimulation causes temporary inflammation in intracranial vascular.

For these causes, a person who shovels a lot of shaved ice quickly into his/her mouth when eating kakigori, or who is hasty in eating tends to have an ice-cream headache. Please eat a shaved ice dessert without a hurry to prevent a headache!
For your information, natural ice made in nature is hard and highly refined without any impurities, making kakigori much fluffier. As the amount of ice put into a mouth at a time is small and crushed ice smoothly dissolves on a tongue, natural ice rarely causes a headache.
It can’t be produced on a large scale and places where you can eat natural ice kakigori are limited even in Japan. If you happen to see it, just try it!

Photo by acwork, Norio NAKAYAMA, Ryusuke Hosoi

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