Exploring the freezer section at your local konbini is even more exciting when you’re on holiday.

Local sweets have an indescribable charm, especially in Japan where you can find them at highway rest stops, souvenir corners, and even convenience stores. Down on the southern island of Kyushu, there are a wide variety of regional sweets to enjoy, but for many, nothing beats the locally produced ice creams.

One place where you can easily try them is at 7-Eleven branches in the area, and that’s where our Japanese-language reporter Mariko Ohanabatake went when she was in Kyushu recently. There, she was able to find a few special selections that she recommends trying, starting with the famous Black Mont Blanc, an ice cream made by Kyushu’s Takeshita Seika.

The Black Mont Blanc is well-known for being one of the nation’s rarest — and most delicious — ice creams, only sold in Kyushu. Due to its widespread fame, however, Mariko is excluding it from her official top three list this time, so let’s take a look at her other recommendations, in no specific order.

1. Seria Roile Bagged Shaved Ice

Shaved ice, or “kakigori” as it’s known in Japan, is usually sold in cups, so this bagged version was a rare sight for Mariko, who immediately purchased it and took it home for a taste test.

This bagged shaved ice is only available in Kyushu, and it differs slightly from traditional kakigori, as it has a softer and more watery texture. There are two ways it’s commonly eaten, both of which start with rubbing the top of the bag to loosen the crystals, after which you can tear it open and either eat it straight out of the bag, or tip it out into a bowl and eat it with a spoon.

Mariko opted for the classier approach, eating it out of a cute bowl she’d just purchased, which elevated the 70-yen (US$0.52) bagged sweet to a cafe-style dessert. The strawberry-flavoured syrup was delicious, and the icy kick gave it a refreshing taste that would be perfect for a hot summer’s day.

2. Ice Manju Dessert Cream Daifuku

When it comes to Japanese ice cream made with adzuki beans, two brands come to mind for Mariko — the Azuki Bar in the east and the Ice Manju in the west.

The moderately sweet and notoriously hard Azuki Bar is said to capture the sensibilities of eastern Japan, particularly the Kanto region in and around Tokyo, where it’s produced. On the other hand, the Ice Manju, with its sweet, soft and easily melted vanilla ice cream and red bean paste, is said to display the elegant aesthetics of western Japan where it has a big presence, due to the fact that Marunaga Seika, the company that makes it, is based in Kyushu’s Fukuoka Prefecture.

Whether you agree with the school of thoughts behind the ice creams, there’s no denying that the Ice Manju is an elegant-tasting sweet. In fact, with its rich and chewy mochi-like texture, Mariko would go so far as to say this cream daifuku version is the ultimate in ice cream luxury.

3. Fruit Milk

While yellow-hued fruit-flavoured milk products aren’t that common in Tokyo and areas of eastern Japan, they’re much more widespread in western Japan, especially in Osaka, where it’s sold as a local specialty called “mix juice”.

The Fruit Milk ice cream is therefore limited for sale in western Japan and is commonly sold at 7-Eleven stores in Japan’s Kinki, Chugoku, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa regions. As it’s produced by Akagi Nyugyo, who also makes the super-famous Garigari-kun ice popsicles, Mariko was expecting this frozen dessert to have a crunchy bite to it, but she was pleased to discover it was delightfully milky instead.

Filled with 10 different kinds of fruits, this ice cream tasted like a high-quality mixed juice. Mariko could detect the tropical flavours of peach, mango, and pineapple pulp, blended with milk for a rich yet sweetly tart taste.

It was absolutely delicious, and Mariko is now pining for the company to expand their sales into Tokyo, so she can enjoy the Fruit Milk more often.

While these ice creams are Mariko’s top three finds at 7-Eleven in Kyushu, there are plenty more regional exclusives awaiting visitors to the island, and on her next trip there she plans to try them all, because it’s always worth checking out the freezer section in Japan, even if the taste-test doesn’t turn out to be as delicious!

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