Japan’s heat wave is the perfect excuse to eat double desserts.

In Japan, you can basically divide shaved ice into two categories. On the simple side, you have basic cups of ice with sweet syrup, and maybe a modest drizzle of condensed milk, which you can get at convenience stores and festival food stands. The other group is fancier eat-in shaved ice, glistening towers of ice with a variety of decadent toppings.

Photogenic sweets fit right into Japan’s cafe culture, but it turns out there’s an American transplant that also has amazing shaved ice, as we recently experienced for ourselves. With a heat wave hitting Japan this week, our Japanese-language reporter Saya Togashi took shelter from the sun’s rays inside a Japanese branch of American coffee shop Coco’s. While they don’t offer shaved ice year-round, it’s on the menu right now as a seasonal dessert with seven different varieties, and Saya decided to treat herself to two of them, starting with the strawberry shaved ice.

Calling it just the “strawberry” shaved ice isn’t really doing it justice, though. In addition to strawberries, it’s also topped with whipped cream and white chocolate flakes, making it like a strawberry shortcake, just with ice swapped in for the sponge cake. It was a thing of absolute beauty to Saya’s eyes, and she wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Sitting a few tables over from her were a pair of uniformed high school girls who’d also ordered the strawberry shaved ice, and who were snapping photos with their phones from a variety of angles, no doubt to share with friends and followers online afterwards.

The shaved ice comes with strawberry sauce already poured over it, but you also get a container with even more if you want to further up the strawberry factor. You also get a container of milk syrup, and Saya added both to max out the flavor.

The consistency of the syrup is just right, not too thick, and not too thin, which allows it to blend nicely with the whipped cream and chocolate flakes. The result is a very sweet flavor, so you might want to try a bite without the additional syrups first, but if your sweet tooth is giving you particularly sharp cravings, this is sure to satisfy them. Saya was also impressed with the quality of the ice itself. Coco’s apparently keeps it chilled at minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) for 48 hours before shaving for a crystal-clear appearance, and it’s ground to a soft texture free of noisy crunches.

As impressively large as the strawberry shaved ice is, Saya found herself able to eat the whole thing. For most people that’d be a perfectly filling dessert, but Saya is a sweets-eating pro, so she dug deep and found space in her stomach for the Shirokuma shaved ice too.

Shirokuma is the Japanese word for “polar bear,” but it’s also become the name of a kind of shaved ice, originating in Kagoshima Prefecture, with condensed milk and a mixture of fruits. Coco’s version uses mikan (mandarin orange), kiwi, banana, and ruby grapefruit, plus literally whipped cream and a cherry on top.

There’s also a surprise waiting inside the mountain of ice, where you’ll find sweet red beans, a perennial favorite in Japanese desserts.

The Shirokuma is also pretty sweet, but there’s also a subtly salty sensation to the red beans, and with the contribution of the citrus fruit flavors added in, the Shirokuma is the more refreshing dessert, while the strawberry shaved ice was the more indulgent.

▼ Two different shaved ice styles for two different moods

With her body cooled and her stomach satisfied from her double-serving of shaved ice, Saya’s only regret was that she didn’t have any room left to try the five remaining flavors on the menu: melon soda, watermelon, “pop blue,” green tea, and mango.

In retrospect, she probably could have fit one or two more into her taste test if she’d opted for the 429-yen (US$3.10) mini size instead of the 759-yen full sizes she’d ordered. Thankfully, there’s a lot of summer left to go, so she’s still got a chance to complete the shaved ice circuit.

Top image: SoraNews24
Insert images: SoraNews24, Coco’s
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he can’t say no to matcha shaved ice.