Natural, Hand-Crafted Shaved Ice “Kakigōri”: A Summer Treat in Nikko, Japan that is also a Cultural Experience! Cool Off and Quench Your Thirst!
Nikko, an area just less than two hours north of Tokyo on the Limited Express Tobu-railway line, has been famous in Japan for more than a century, providing a respite for cooling off and immersing in nature, during Tokyo's hot and humid summers.
One means for cooling off is ice. During winter, Nikko's good-quality natural mountain spring water and traditional methods are used to make hard, highly transparent ice. These are preserved, and in June, as the height of summer approaches, Tokyo escapists and other visitors enjoy shaved ice products called “Kakigōri,” made with this carefully-chiseled and crafted natural ice. Because of the pure, mineral-rich water, Nikko's Kakigōri is characterized by a soft, delicate, cotton candy-like texture, and subtle sweet flavor.
Currently, only a few traditional purveyors are left in Japan producing and selling natural ice, but there are three in the Nikko area! These are:
1. Shogetsu Himuro
A traditional purveyor of natural ice founded in 1894, the store is about 10 minutes on foot from Shimoimaichi Station on the Tobu Nikko Line. In summer you might have to queue. A rich range of items are served, including desserts made with locally-produced fruit. http://www.tobujapantrip.com/en/gourmet/nikko_kinugawa/167.html
2. Nikko Coffee Goyouteidori
This cafe is inside a refurbished traditional Japanese house built more than 90 years ago. Their flagship offerings include ice produced by craftsman “Nikko 4th Tokujirou.” The ice goes wonderfully well with a tasty cup of coffee. https://www.japantimeline.jp/en/tochigi/tobu-tochigi/nikko_coffee
3. Nikko Kanaya Hotel Japanese Cafe Shou
This cafe is located inside one of Nikko’s most historic, classic hotels. Shaved, natural ice is their seasonal specialty. Try it topped with “Tochi Otome Strawberry Syrup” or “Matcha Azuki” – a combination of green tea and sweet beans. https://www.kanayahotel.co.jp/eng/nkh/restaurant/shou.php
Come to Nikko in Summer. Explore the world heritage sites and the natural beauty, and don't forget to try the natural shaved ice, a very much anticipated seasonal treat. For more information on ice desserts in Nikko check out Nikko City Tourism Association's website: http://nikko-travel.jp/english/cuisine/
Get to Nikko using TOBU Railways:
The TOBU Railway Group is a major Japanese corporate group consisting of approximately 90 companies. The Tobu Railways cover the longest operating distance in the Kanto area, and lead to many tourist attractions including Asakusa and Tokyo SKYTREE TOWN in Tokyo, Nikko and Kinugawa Onsen, famous as a world heritage and hot spring location, the Tatebayashi and Ashikaga area known for its beautiful blooming flower fields, and Kawagoe, where the atmosphere of the Edo era still live on.
Photos (Nikko Kanaya hotel photos are courtesy T. Chiba).