The people of Kanazawa consume more ice cream than in any other city in Japan! In nearly every neighborhood, ice cream can be found, especially in soft serve form. Here are some of the must-try varieties while you’re in town.
Kinpaku (gold leaf & gold flake)
Gold covered ice cream is a picturesque novelty and a requirement of the epicurean experience. You might have seen it in other cities, so what makes it special here? Kanazawa actually produces over 99% of all the gold leaf in Japan! If you’ve had it before, the gold you’ve eaten came from Kanazawa. What better way to enjoy this brilliantly gilded treat than in the very city that makes it so?
Houji-cha (roasted green tea)
You’ll have come across hōjicha at most restaurants. This mild green tea is reddish in color and has an earthy flavor and caramel aroma. The roasting process is authentically Japanese, and it’s one of the most common teas in the country. Recently, it’s become popular as a flavor of ice cream, particularly in the summer. Along Tatemachi Street, just a few blocks away from us, Nodaya Tea Shop sells tea-flavored ice creams, with hōjicha as a particular summer specialty.
Produced by Kanazawa’s own Yamato Soysauce & Miso Company, soy sauce soft serve will be delicious to anyone who enjoys the taste of salty caramel. The earthy, salty soy sauce combined with sweet ice cream is a bit too easy to devour. WARNING: may cause brain freeze. Try it on your next trip to Kouji Park before or after the factory tour, or grab a cone in Higashi Chaya or the basement of M’Za department store, across from Omicho Market.
At the end of the smaller, sweeter geisha district of Nishi Chaya, just past the powder-blue geisha training hall, is Nakatani Tofu. The long building is a processing plant for tofu in the area, but the front sells tofu snacks and—most importantly for this article—tofu ice cream and tofu soft serve. The flavor is subtle, but present, and makes the ice cream particularly creamy and smooth.
Various Flavors at Kenroku-en
Along the north edge of Kenroku-en Garden, across from Kanazawa Castle Park, is a line of shops descending the Konya-zaka Slope. In addition to the many snacks and souvenirs are a number of ice cream and soft serve shops. Here are a few of our favorites:
Additionally offered at Shirakawago‘s center-most shop and diner.
Called kurogoma in Japanese, this mauve soft serve has a mild, peanut buttery taste to it.
A light-blue soft serve with the same lemon-lime flavor of its marble-sealed namesake.
Called “maron,” expect to see this flavor in autumn and winter.
The sweet red bean is the basis for traditional as well as modern Japanese treats.
Darkened with burnt bamboo. Maybe scarier upon the second encounter if you’ve forgotten about eating it.
In cherry blossom season, this treat is a must-eat on site. Like other seasonal sakura sweets, the flavor is delicate with hints of sour and sweet. There are even varieties of sakura throughout the season, like the super-sweet “sakura mochi” flavor pictured above.
As deep green as the powdered tea, this flavor is everywhere! It’s even found in convenient store fountains alongside vanilla.
Non-Melting Ice Cream
Yes, you read that correctly.
Using completely organic strawberry polyphenol, this ice cream retains its shape under considerably more heat than the regular stuff. I hung out with a strawberry-flavored plum-shaped ‘sicle for almost ten minutes with no sign of melting, and even the raspberry sauce began to frost over. Upon biting, the texture reminds me a bit of dried marshmallows in kids’ cereals that have re-hydrated in milk, but it melts in my mouth no less so than regular ice cream, and the taste didn’t seem in anyway altered.
It should come as no surprise that the origin of this innovative ice cream method is one of Kanazawa’s own, Tomihisa Ota, professor emeritus of pharmacy at Kanazawa University. Where better to create ice cream that never melts than in the ice-cream-consuming capital of Japan!
Kanazawa Ice in Higashi Chaya specializes in this ice cream, so pop by here for your taste of vanilla, strawberry or matcha ice cream.
Half a decade ago Rachel fell off a bus and then fell in love with this traditional-crafts and ice-cream-consuming capital of Japan. Editor and amateur photographer with a penchant for nature and history. Not actually fifty songbirds in a trench coat. (Former penname: Ryann)