We first read about kakigori in our favourite book on Tokyo food, Pretty Good Number One by Matthew Amster-Burton. In the book he visits a fancy-pants 75 year old tea shop above an Armani store in the high-falutin' suburb of Ginza. Here the kakigori is flavoured with exquisite matcha, green tea powder. We visit the same store only to find it is shut for an art exhibition, thus denying us magical kakigori. So we trawl Tokyo's inner burbs searching for the kakigori of our dreams.
The first place we try is in the inner suburb of Nakano. This little lunch resto promises kakigori glory but the boss lady tells us it is off the menu today.
Summer in Tokyo is stinky hot. It's over thirty degrees and humidity sucks the life out of us. So we head to the air-conditioned walkways beneath Tokyo station where we see this head-scratching scene. Is that a class being held by two giant stuffed toys? Or are they hosting a chat show? We really should learn to speak or at least read Japanese but that would take the "what the?" out of travelling.
This we do understand however, this sign tells us Kakagori is sold here.
This bakery\pasta\cafe\diner joint is a bit posh for us, but we're desperate for kakigori, street cred be damned.
Our kakigori under construction.
Green tea is the kakigori flavour we've been looking forward to most. It's pretty good but a lot sweeter than we envisaged. The green coloured ice gives it a seamonster look.
Strawberry kakigori - an Everest of shaved ice with strawberry syrup and a couple of strawberries for good measure. Pour the little jug of condensed milk over the top and it's like a big Redskin Split. These kakigori are delicious in a sweet-toothed way but we're after something more subtle and delicate.
The next day we head to the posh area of Ginza to try the 75 year old tea house above the Armani store, Uogashi, only to find that the cafe is closed for an exhibition. We are devastated, we've been dreaming about this place for weeks. The staff cheer us up with some free green tea, which is way more incredible than we though free tea could ever be. Wish we bought some...
Uogashi may be closed but we're determined to find some seriously good kakigori. We catch a train to the suburb of Kagaruzaka, a former hanamachi (geisha district) with streets lined with lanterns and stores with traditional Japanese goods. It's fairly upmarket and a pleasant area to wander around.
Off the main road are endless little quiet alleyways with homes and smaller local stores.
We see the magic sign for kakigori but the cafe is closed.
We need to line our stomachs for our kakigori bender so we stop at this bun shop.
A pork bun and a sweet red bean bun, just like Chinese steamed buns.
Kinozen is a traditional sweets shop that serves sweets of each season.
Complimentary green tea is served and it's incredible, it's in a completely different ballpark to green tea we've tasted back at home, it's so fresh and alive with flavour, and this is probably just the cheap stuff...
Kori Uji - shaved ice with green tea syrup. This is less super-sweet than the last kakigori we tried but it's still not what we were hoping to find. It's got balls.
Kori Melon. This one is super sweet.
We didn't find the kakigori of our dreams but we fall in love with this old style of tea\dessert shop. These places are so quiet and relaxing.
Kinozen menu. Simply look confused and the nice ladies will bring you an English version.
Plastic desserts on display out the front of Kinozen.
It's our last day in Tokyo so we head back to Ginza for one last chance at kakigori greatness. We take a punt on Tatsoutano.
Tatsoutano is another old-fashioned tea house. These places make for such a pleasant time-out. We're hooked on them and can't wait to come back to Tokyo to explore them further.
The view from upstairs.
Complimentary green tea is served. Once again, it's incredible.
As we sip our tea the streets of Ginza are blocked from traffic and folks stroll the streets in their Saturday best.
Green tea matcha (uji) with adzuki jam and mochi dumplings. This one is a corker. The green tea flavours are subtle, it's perfect.
Served with a tiny jug of matcha flavoured condensed milk to pour over as you please.
Sumos love a bit of kakigori too! Don't forget to pick up this beautifully illustrated shop brochure.
Special bag storage bags to keep your shopping contained and off the floor. So classy, so thoughtful.
Kakigori street stall in Ueno. We've got no stomarch room and a plane to catch.
We love Japan.