When the warm weather comes around, we all need something nice and cold to keep our minds off the soaring temperatures. Convenience stores (or konbini, as it's called locally) are ideal for that quick cool down, as they offer not only an air-conditioned respite from the summer heat outside but also a wide range of cheap yet delicious cold treats and desserts, from ice cream to frozen mochi and more. We had a hard time narrowing down this delicious list as we went on the hunt for the very best frozen specialities, so we won’t judge if you want to try them all in one go.
RECOMMENDED: Kakigori, the ultimate Japanese summer iced dessert
As classic as it gets, that snap and crunch of biting into a good old ice cream bar is what keeps us coming back for more. We like the classic chocolate-vanilla combo, but flavours like matcha and white chocolate make for a good change-up from time to time. Also, as Tokyo continues to ride the bubble tea craze, these small, chewy tapioca balls have also made it into a variety of ice cream bars, where each bite is rewarded with a tapioca morsel. Try the Asian Kibun Anin Tofu Ice bar (¥140) for a special treat.
Not into ice cream? Stick to a popsicle instead. Konbini have ice bars in flavours including milk, azuki (red bean), matcha and a wide range of fruits. Keep an eye out for seasonal varieties like strawberry and melon, some of which even have pieces of real fruit inside the bar.
Another classic Japanese ice pop is the old-school Gari Gari Kun, which comes in a variety of flavours like soda (¥70) and vanilla cola as well as seasonal offerings like mint chocolate (¥140) and even collabs with Pokémon.
An obvious contender, Häagen-Dazs deserve a category of their own as they never disappoint when it comes to flavours and creativity. Try one of their crispy sandwiches, ice cream bars or their ever-changing seasonal specialities offered in single-serving cups. Recently, cup flavours such as lychee raspberry and hojicha latte (¥272) have made their way into konbini freezers and we couldn't be more excited to try them all out.
From simple ice cream sando to stuffed waffles, these icy treats usually come in classic flavours like vanilla, chocolate or Neapolitan. We like the Morinaga chocolate monaka waffle (¥130) as it’s an easy one to share without getting too messy, but we’d happily eat the entire thing ourselves.
Every konbini stocks a wide variety of ice cream cones – from sugar cones lined with a chocolate layer and filled with your ice cream flavour of choice to pre-packed frozen soft-serve cones complete with that picture-perfect swirl. Our pick is the diet-friendly, 80-calorie Sunao vanilla ice cream cone (¥150) that will keep even the most rabid dieters happy. For chocolate lovers, it even comes in a vanilla-chocolate twist.
From kakigori to creamy goodness, you can get just about anything in these cups. We don’t mind splurging on the kinako-flavoured shingenmochi ice cream cup from Natural Lawson, dispersed with chewy morsels of mochi and sweet kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup). The cup comes in two varieties – regular and premium – but we can’t really tell the difference between the two (¥300).
The two most popular treats you’ll find under this category are frozen milkshakes Papico and Coolish. Let one of these sit in room temperature for a few minutes before opening (or perhaps defrost it a bit on your forehead) for a frosty concoction you can sip straight out of the package. The coffee flavour is like an iced latte, but better (¥130).
They might not count as one of your daily servings of fruit but these cuties are a nice alternative to your typical ice cream bar – and they’re fun to eat, too. Typically found in grape, peach or other seasonal flavours, Aisunomi (¥130) are basically small balls of fruit-flavoured sorbet covered in an icy coating. Stick too many in your mouth at once and prepare for the inevitable bout of brain freeze.
A uniquely Japanese icy treat, ice cream mochi (¥140) will blow your mind. Bite into the soft, chewy exterior and meet a centre of pillowy ice cream. An ice cream daifuku, meanwhile, is usually a bit larger and contains extra fillings inside the mochi – think red bean paste or even strawberries.
More great finds at the konbini
A quintessential Japanese snack, the onigiri rice ball is one of our favourite convenience store finds. It's the best cheap fast-food to eat on-the-go
Beer, saké, highball, chuhai and even wine – did you know Japan’s amazing convenience stores also double as bottle shops?
Need a quick bite to eat? Pick up one of these tasty konbini sandwiches to keep your stomach satisfied
Noodles in an instant – from some of Tokyo’s top ramen restaurants, no less
Don’t miss out on these hot pockets of seasonal goodness that come with a variety of fillings