The history of Japan's kakigori, or a shaved ice dessert, is surprisingly old and it is said to have already existed in the Heian period around the 11th century. At that time, ice was apparently shaved with a knife into a metal bowl and eaten with a sweet sap from types of vines, hydrangeas, and ivy, with some golden syrup on top. There is a reference to this dessert in The Pillow Book written by Sei Shonagon, a renowned piece of ancient Japanese literature.
It was also regarded as a highly valuable dessert as it was made of natural ice formed during the coldest period of winter, which was stored in icehouses. Kakigori in ancient times was a supreme luxury available only to the Heian nobles; ordinary people could not afford it.
It was in the Meiji period around the 19th century that kakigori finally became affordable to the general public. Until then, ice was still expensive as people had to import what was called "Boston Ice" from the US, taking half a year for transporting. However, when the food entrepreneur Kahe Nakagawa succeeded in delivering 'Hakodate Ice' from Hokkaido to Yokohama, the first kakigori shop was opened in the Bashamichi area in Kanagawa in 1872. And then an icemaker was invented in the middle of the Meiji period and an ice-shaving machine in the early Showa period around the 1930s, eventually making kakigori common food as it is now.
Over 1200 years have passed since the Heian period and nowadays, kakigori has become a popular Japanese sweet loved by all generations, particularly enjoyed during the summer. Indulge yourself with Japan's kakigori.
As a little extra piece of information, the Japan Kakigori Association designates July 25th as the 'day of kakigori' because the pronunciation of this date sounds like 'summer ice' in Japanese. It seems a little far-fetched, but it may be good to know this special day, which is not widely known even among the Japanese.
Have you ever experienced a sharp pain in your head when eating kakigori quickly?
That is commonly called "brain-freeze" and is said to be caused when either one or both of the following two phenomena occur.
1. The nerves conveying coldness to the brain suddenly receive too much cold stimulation and make mistakes, eventually stimulating the nerves in charge of pain as well.
2. Coldness triggers a temporary inflammation in the blood vessels in your head.
How to recover
Directly place the cold bowl of kakigori on your forehead.
1. →It is believed that by conveying real cold stimulation to your brain, it will alleviate the confusion over coldness or pain in the nerves.
2. →...Or just bear with it!
Kakigori should be eaten and enjoyed slowly.
An amazing machine that you can prepare chipped kakigori at home with. This machine is best for souvenir.
In Japan, people enjoy making kakigori with the ice in the refrigerator at home.
This is a kakigori machine available easily from a home improvement center or a shopping mall at a reasonable price. Because it's size is compact enough, it is recommended for a souvenir as a memory of Japan.
*The photograph is for illustrative purposes only