Both confusing and pleasing to the tastebuds.

Things are heating up fast in Japan even though it’s only June, and our Mr. Sato thinks he already has a case of natsu-bate, or summer fatigue. He wanted something cold and refreshing, and during his search, he learned about a shaved ice shop called Tamaya in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighborhood that opened at the beginning of June.

He was curious about Tamaya for a couple of reasons. One: it had been sold at Tamaya Sweets in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture since 1954, and two: that it looked less like shaved ice and more like gelato.

Ultra-fluffy shaved ice has been on trend the past few years, but Tamaya doesn’t just shave the ice. They also shake and whip it to give it a unique, ice cream-like texture.

Tamaya’s shaved ice ranges in price from 850 yen (US$5.92) to 1,100 yen, which is admittedly a bit higher on the spectrum for shaved ice, but Mr. Sato thought it was worth it to try it once. They have all sorts of flavors: Uji matcha, strawberry milk, blueberry, pineapple, and a classic Japanese milk seki flavor. This is an old-school way to say “milkshake”–more specifically, a formerly popular milkshake that was almost custardy in flavor.

Mr. Sato went with the milk seki flavor, which also happened to be the store’s bestseller. He received a card with his order number and two of Ehime’s mascots, Mikyan and Komikyan. As he waited for his order, he wondered if Komikyan was Mikyan’s little brother.

Before he could come to a conclusion, his order was ready. He immediately understood everyone’s comparison of the shaved ice to gelato. It was hard to see it as anything else, especially with its off-white, custardy tint.

The closeup shows that it’s not as smooth as gelato, though; though the ice crystals aren’t very visible, it does look like it’s mostly water-based.

How does it taste? Well, Mr. Sato was a bit discombobulated. It didn’t quite taste like shaved ice, but it didn’t quite taste like ice cream either. It was smooth and soft, but it melted almost instantly. He didn’t hate it. In fact, he gobbled it up so quickly that he had a serious case of brain freeze.

All in all, Mr. Sato would recommend giving it a try! He did regret his flavor choice on a personal level, though. He thinks the soft texture of the shaved ice would go better with stronger flavors like strawberry or chocolate banana. Maybe even ramen-flavored shaved ice would be good. If you find yourself melting in the Japanese summer, consider stopping by!

Restaurant information
Tamaya Ikebukuro Tobu Branch | Tamaya 池袋東武店
Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Nishi-ikebukuro 1-1-25 Tobu Department Store Ikebukuro Honten B1F
東京都豊島区西池袋1-1-25東武百貨店 池袋本店地下1階
Open 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

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