chirinchirin ice cream9

You’ve never seen ice cream like this before…that is unless you’re from Nagasaki. The delicate frozen petals of the rose seen above were skillfully set into place one by one to create what’s known as chirin-chirin ice cream. Let’s take a closer look at this popular dessert with a long history and a silly name.

Chirin-chirin ice cream is a popular treat that has been sold at tourist spots around Nagasaki City for over 50 years. The sorbet-like frozen ice cream is dished up by little old ladies for the extremely reasonable price of 100 yen (a few cents shy of one US dollar).

Babahera002Image: Wikimedia Commons

The ice cream is scooped up a little at a time and pushed onto the cone as it is rotated. The result is a hard-to-topple ice cream cone, immune to the flailing arms of excitable children. In fact, when the dessert was first sold, the ice cream was simply placed on top of the cone, much to the disappointment of children who didn’t take care to keep their treat steady. To prevent any more tears, the chirin-chirin ice cream vendors decided to firmly place the ice cream onto the cone, which incidentally created a rose shape. For child-proof ice cream, it looks quite nice, actually:

chirin chirin ice cream2Image: Twitter (johnny_rin)

But if you think that’s cool, wait until you see it in action:

Chirin-chirin ice cream can be found in small carts like the one below, a fully contained unit, which houses the cones, ice cream, and necessary tools to create these frozen flowers.

chirin chirin ice creammmmImage: Twitter (shirabezione)

chirin chirin ice ream70Image: Twitter (banbon55)

You may think this is a summer favorite, but chirin-chirin ice cream is sold year-round, even in the dead of winter. In fact, it’s said that sales increase during New Year’s since children have plenty of pocket change to spend after receiving Otoshidama. However, summer seems to be a wonderful time to enjoy chirin-chirin ice cream near the canals of Nagasaki.

▼ There’s always a chirin-chirin ice cream cart at Megane Bridge.

chirin chirin ice creamImage: Twitter (orenjizoku)

And cherry blossom season is a wonderful time to do just about anything outside, especially eat ice cream:

chirin chirin ice cream10Images: Twitter (shuhei1955)

Although white (vanilla) is the most common, chirin-chirin ice cream comes in different flavors and colors…

chirin chirin ice cream 11Image: Twitter (crowndry)

chirin chirin ice cream14Image: Twitter (bocchan27)

….and also different shapes. The ice cream on the left is a tulip, the one on the right is the traditional rose shape.

chirin chirin ice cream 12Image: Twitter (nekotasyunya)

But why the strange name? As it happens, the Japanese language is filled with useful onomatopoeic words, and chirin chirin just happens to be one of them. The English equivalent is ting-a-ling, the sound a bell makes. Sure, as children, many Americans would hurriedly clamor for coins as soon as they heard “Turkey in the Straw” blaring from the ice cream truck speakers, but it’s the sound of a brass bell that makes the children of Nagasaki drop everything for the promise of ice cream. The sound is so iconic, the rose-shaped ice cream is named after it.

So the next time you’re in Nagasaki, specifically the Uonomachi area, be sure to listen for a faint chirin chirin – you’re sure to be close to Nagasaki’s most famous ice cream.

chirin chirin ice cream20Image: Twitter (Misaki64N)

References: Entabe, Tabelog, KBCmovie
Featured image: Twitter (odakyu_s)