The air thick with heat, laden with moisture, -a heat wave if you will- the cool rolling down my back until it’s finally wisped away- a vapor. Now’s a great time for Kakigori. Simply defined as Japan’s traditional take on shaved ice, crunchy and topped with a range of options, syrup, fruit, condensed milk, sweet beans!
I didn’t see the big deal, not till recently. Granted, every time I’ve had it was at a barbecue or self serve at some family restaurant. But thanks to the noble Kantaro of Netflix series, I ventured into Tokyo to buy one for the first time.
Before I dive into this, this is what the common man of Japan might think of as haute cuisine. They’ve all under guessed the price and all were perplexed and wowed away as I’ve shown them the picture of what they can’t believe is Japan’s own kakigori. What’s that?!
Kantaro, with a ridiculous passion for sweets theorizes that he must torture his body, raising his temperature to flames to maximize the chilling pleasure of kakigori. The weather lately did most of the work for me urging me to venture on a journey of nearly two hours to Kichijoji, one of the many modern kinjos of Japan with patches of tradition.
I went to the spot my phone guided me to but it didn’t look like what I expected to find. I was scared I followed my gps to the wrong place. Had I remembered the show, I wouldn’t have felt so lost.
Kooriya Peace is hidden away not just off the main road but within a complex of other restaurants tucked away at the back. I was delighted, relieved! I peeked my head into the shop recognizing the counter from the show, massive snowballs shoveled away with a spoon. Pictures of the treat crafting a mosaic on the wall.
Reservations was no joke. The shop which seats eight, was full of course. Kantaro makes a reservation in the morning before completing his sales visits, running back through the heat after he’s done. Thankfully, I didn’t need one
When invited in, I took my seat and ordered my premium melon sherbet flavored kakigori,. I didn’t feel comfortable paying for too desserts like Kantaro. As I waited, I enjoyed the playful atmosphere, watched the transformation of a block of ice become a fluffy and colorful confection as I sipped my mugicha. Never before had I considered fluffy an appropriate adjective for ice. The lady next to me snapped a picture of her strawberry creme, making me feel at ease with the foodie attributed I’d soon display.
Hai! Premiamu meron shabet deeesu! The tray hit the counter and slid my way. My smile couldn’t be concealed. The tray looked quite like the one I’d seen and expected. After snapin my shots, I carefully considered where to begin. On my first bite I let a reflex giggle of unbelief.
Melon overload! There was melon jelly, fresh split domes of cantaloupe, melon sherbet, ok on top the mound of carefully shaved ice.
I dug away strategically, trying to keep my kakigori from falling over into the tray. I couldn’t believe how well the show captured its excellence, not fabricating unreachable expectations, even for something as simple as shaved ice! Each bite was more amazing than the last. Before one has the chance to think otherwise, you encounter the anticipated, nonetheless surprising core of glowing green melon jelly..
For what it’s worth, kakigori has regained my respect but I’m afraid it’s a kakigori most Japanese have never tasted.
Speaking of worth I wrestled for a moment thinking of the 1500 yen I would hand over after looking at my empty dish and the bead of melon juice that would be nestled in my spoon? But I thought it wasn’t worth worrying about, nor was the ride I took to get there. I enjoyed the moments.
As for the next shop, I’m not so sure.