Enjoy the refreshing taste of Tsubame Sanjo’s metalworking factories!

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge grievance, both on personal and societal levels. One commonly discussed aspect is its impact on local economies, especially ones based around tourism. Some artisanal communities have turned to Internet-based projects to drum up revenue, while others are focusing on the future, planning enticing features to lure people back after the pandemic ebbs.

Tsubame Sanjo, an area right on the border between Sanjo City and Tsubame City in Niigata Prefecture, is taking the latter approach with a brand new product intended to spark imaginations and honor their longstanding tradition as one of the country’s most respected sources of metalwork.

So what does Tsubame Sanjo have for us? A metal sculpture, perhaps? A new spoon that’s even better at scooping up curry?

▼ Surprise! It’s ice cream.

After a drastic decrease in tourists following the arrival of the pandemic, an independent initiative called “I Wanna Celebrate Tsubame Sanjo!” put together a team of planners, manufacturers, a designer, and yes, also a gelato specialist. Together they drafted the idea of an ice cream that would represent Tsubame Sanjo’s incredible history as a manufacturer of metal cutlery, cast irons, and various other tools and trinkets, while also promising a taste of unexpected possibilities.

Many towns offer unique food as part of the tourist experience — think apples and Aomori, or bananas and Tokyo. This new ice cream will have iron shavings incorporated into the ice cream itself so that you can experience the taste of Tsubame Sanjo’s factory culture on your tongue!

The website created to promote the iron ice cream guides us through the brainstorming process. Market research determined that tourists typically visit in the summer, hence the cold delicious ice cream. Then after coming up with the idea of combining iron shavings with ice cream, they tried mixing iron shavings with commercial vanilla ice cream products.

▼ It was delicious, allegedly.

From there they enlisted the help of the aforementioned gelato expert, Yasuyuki Sakuma of Tsubame-based gelateria Gelateria Coco, and design outlet Creator Unit 401 to make the product more appealing. Then it was time to ensure the taste and the nutrition was balanced. They wanted consumers to appreciate the sweetness of the ice cream while tasting the iron complement, without including too much iron in the final product. After all, more than the recommended daily dose of iron would be a waste.

Then a breakthrough — combining the iron shavings with shaved ice makes it easier to taste the flavor even with a small amount of iron! Bamboo charcoal was also incorporated so that the ice cream would be a pleasing iron-grey color after mixing. The base of milk gelato ice cream was also improved for taste.

After that, all that was left to do was give it a catchy slogan, name it, and cap it off with a snappy design. It’s like a field trip to a factory you can eat!

This is an ice cream that lets you savor the flavor of Tsubame Sanjo’s factories on your tongue: Tsubame Sanjo Iron Ice Cream.

Many people have already taste-tested the ice cream and announced it was “much tastier than I expected”, “very sweet” and “an unexpected combination that rocks”.

The product is on sale as of April 24 for a retail price of 400 yen (US$3.70), and initially will only be able for purchase at Gelateria Coco.

Iron and ice cream… there couldn’t possibly be any crazier flavor than that, right?

Related: Gelateria Coco

Source, images: Tsubamesanjo Iron Ice Cream
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