If I say gelato, you’ll almost definitely think of Italy. But trust us when we say Japan is killing the gelato game; I’ll explain. My first day in Japan’s capital city, Tokyo, involved 100% humidity and a temperature of 30 degrees Celcius, and when these two combine, there’s only one thing to do. Eat ice cream, and a lot of it. So, I set off on my recon mission and was pleasantly surprised to find several stalls selling the frozen treat on every corner (close enough).
The first stall I hit had an incredible range of flavours and unlike its Italian counterpart, it was all soft cream rather than scooped goodness. Of course, the classics, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, were there but it was the more adventurous flavours that really caught my attention. Of course, there was a matcha option, but sitting right next to it were flavours like corn, pumpkin, purple sweet potato, and I even saw a Ramen flavoured ice cream. Ramen. Flavoured. Ice Cream.
Due to my undying love for everything green tea-related, I selected a matcha green tea soft serve and oh my gosh! It was incredible. I was completely blown away by how the richness of matcha was perfectly blended with the creaminess of the ice cream. I instantly knew Japan is the world’s most underrated destination for ice cream. This new-found knowledge led to me indulging in one…. okay two ice creams per day but hey, I was on holiday and calories don’t count on holiday (am I right?).
Since I made it my mission to sample every flavour while travelling around Japan, I now consider myself an authority on all things Japanese soft serve. Here are my favourite whacky flavours that I discovered along the way.
1. Honey ice cream, Takayama
Each city or village in Japan has their own special ice cream flavoured with local fruit, tea varieties or just anything iconic from the region. In Takayama, vanilla ice cream was infused with and drizzled in local honey. This sweet and smooth soft serve was a sheer delight.
2. Ice cream in a doughnut cone, Miyajima Island
Yes, you read that correctly: a doughnut cone. This spot was less about the flavours of the ice cream and more about the fact it was stuffed into a warm, freshly made doughnut-like cone. It was insane. I chose the green tea crunch (shock) ice cream and this combined with the doughnut cone was out of this world. The ice cream starts to melt as soon as it touches the hot cone which may sound like a bad thing but that’s far from the case. The ice cream melting means the flavours fuse with the cone and become a mish-mash of delicious. My taste buds were literally dancing with joy as I devoured this. You’ll never want to go back to a regular old wafer cone again.
3. Melon bread ice cream, Osaka
As far as I’m concerned, you can’t say you’ve had an amazing ice cream sandwich until you’ve tried this one. Melon bread, which is a traditional sweet Japanese bun, is baked in front of you before being sliced open and filled to bursting with ice cream. If you aren’t already drooling, it gets better because you can even top the whole thing with chocolate. The light-as-air melon bread combined with the classic vanilla ice cream creates is the best possible spin on an old faithful dessert and, of course, the chocolate only doubles the flavour because everything tastes better with chocolate.
It’s about time Japan gets the credit and recognition it deserves for their unique and mouth-watering ice cream creations. You know what to do.