Chavaty1/2
Photo: Chavaty
Gomaya Kuki2/2
Photo: Gomaya uki

Japanese ice cream flavours you need to try

Swap your vanilla ice cream with these unique Japanese flavours: matcha, sesame, sake and more

By Emma Steen
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Tokyo has its fair share of quality gelato shops, with flavours ranging from classic chocolate to salted caramel, but let’s face it – you can find those flavours in any other city. Trade your run-of-the-mill ice cream and soft-serve for something more exotic and Japan-specific, like sakura, roasted green tea or ume plum. You might even discover a new favourite flavour.

RECOMMENDED: Looking for more cooling treats? Try kakigori shaved ice desserts

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Sesame

Shopping Chocolate and sweets Harajuku

Fragrant, nutty sesame is used to season an abundance of Japanese dishes and snacks, but sesame ice cream is still hard to come by outside of speciality shops. Gomaya Kuki offers not one but four different sesame variations in its scoops for ¥550 each: two black and two white, with varying degrees of intensity, and all made with premium sesame from Mie prefecture. You can get a mix to compare the black and white flavours, or ask for the goma shio (sesame salt) ice cream for something even more special.

Chavatay
Chavatay
Photo: Chavaty

Hojicha (roasted green tea)

Restaurants Harajuku

Chavaty operates as a tea shop serving classic treats like scones, but the store also serves delectable tea-flavoured ice cream (¥480) that are worth stopping by for when exploring the backstreets of Omotesando. Hojicha, or roasted green tea, has an earthy, toasty richness that makes it perfect for desserts, especially in the summer. To ensure that its soft-serve has the same depth of flavour year-round, Chavaty sources its tea leaves from different prefectures across Japan according to season.  

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Nanaya matcha ice cream
Nanaya matcha ice cream
Photo: Nanaya

Matcha green tea

Shopping Chocolate and sweets Shibuya

At Nanaya, you can choose from seven different green tea ice creams, each with a different concentration of potent matcha. The most popular order is number seven, the scoop with the highest grade and intensity of matcha. If you’re a sweet tooth, choose a lighter colour; the deeper the shade of green, the more bitter the matcha flavour. Otherwise, get a combination of two to compare.

Apart from matcha, Nanaya also serves other tea-flavoured ice creams such as hojicha and sencha (infused green tea); there’s also chestnut in autumn. Prices range from ¥380 to ¥730, depending on the matcha’s level of intensity.

Sakeice
Sakeice
Photo: Sakeice

Sake

Restaurants Cafés Asakusa

Sorry kids, these boozy scoops are only for the over-20s. Sakeice in Asakusa specialises in ice cream flavoured with the quintessential Japanese tipple. There are two types of sake ice cream here, one of which changes seasonally, but they are all made with rice alcohol from the acclaimed Otokoyama brewery in Hokkaido, which relies on natural spring water for its sake.

The level of alcohol in each scoop (¥500) probably isn’t enough to get you tipsy, but the subtle sweetness of the rice brew compliments the creamy texture of the ice cream, making for a perfect frozen treat. For youngsters, however, the shop offers classic strawberry and vanilla, which are non-alcoholic.

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Shiroichi
Shiroichi
Photo: Shiroichi

Fresh milk

Restaurants Ice-cream parlours Shibuya

Shiroichi’s cones are something to marvel at. These soft serves are unusually long and thin, so you’ll want to devour yours quickly before it melts or topples over. That’s not hard to do, though – the fresh milk frozen treat is utterly irresistible.

Shiroichi’s ice cream stands out from the rest as the store doesn’t boil the milk to make the sweet treat. Instead, fresh milk from Hokkaido is used to make ‘raw’ ice cream so that the rich dairy flavours are enhanced. Cones are ¥440 and for an extra ¥50, you can get a topping of organic black honey.

Premarché Gelateria
Premarché Gelateria
Photo: Premarché Gelateria

Japanese plum

Restaurants Cafés Nakameguro

Vegans usually get stuck with sorbet when it comes to finding dairy-free ice cream. That isn’t the case at Premarché Gelateria, where, on top of fruity sorbets, the store also serves vegan gelato that’s so creamy you’d never believe it’s completely milk-free.

Japanese varieties here range from shiso sorbet to roasted sweet potato gelato, but the tartness of the refreshing kishu nanko ume (Japanese plum) makes it especially popular in the summertime. Pick one flavour for ¥600 or two for ¥700.

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