A lot of us are not working much and getting in some travel time during summer. Any way to cut back on expenses without cutting out the fun sounds good to me.
An inexpensive かき氷 / shaved ice machine (hand cranked) is less than 2000 yen most of the time. (Ours was 700 yen. The more expensive machines will get you less exercise and a softer ice.) Why not get your own and deal with summer in Japan by eating shaved ice every day? Or three times a day, if that’s all you feel like eating.
During summer in Japan, I get the summer fatigue. That means I want to sleep or eat ice cream all the time. That’s a separate article.
When we go out we can see shaved ice everywhere, but a tiny one is gonna be at least 150 yen. Mister Donut has them too, but not for under 500 yen. If you really like the stuff, and you’re spending any time at home, it’s probably worth it to buy a shaved ice maker. It will also cost less than buying ice cream all the time and you can create your own flavors.
The downside is, we can’t make shaved ice at home, then bring it in our bento or to the nearest 花火大会 / Hanabi Taikai. Or maybe we could try, with a good cooler full of ice packs.
Part one: Ice
Most of the shaved ice makers, even the super cheap ones, can shave normal ice cubes. If you have an ice cube tray and can remember to refill it a lot, you’re set. Your shaved ice maker will probably come with a plastic container for freezing a big ice puck that perfectly fits into the machine. If you use both of these, you could cover at least a couple big shaved ices every day.
Part two: Not Ice
In the plastic container and/or ice cube tray (and/or other random containers of appropriate size) you can freeze other things to shave. I recommend juice, coffee or tea, and yogurt. These can be mixed with normal ice in your bowl if you want both.
Part three: Toppings
There is the typical flavored syrup – 氷みつ / kōrimitsu, the ones you’ll see at any matsuri. But why not make your own? Simple syrup is just equal parts of sugar dissolved into water.
Easier than homemade syrup and healthier than kōrimitsu, we have concentrated Calpis (including many flavored varieties) and drinking vinegars (黒酢 / kurozu) are common. Citron tea jam (ゆず茶 / yuzu cha) and fresh or canned fruits (lemon & salt?) are also an option. Traditional toppings are green tea and ice cream or sweet red beans (あんこ / anko), maybe sweetened condensed milk. Cream can also be added, especially with coffee shaved ice, for an iced coffee with cream sort of taste. Why not try ice cream, yogurt, maple syrup, natta de coco, mochi, whatever looks good on top of your ice. I got a packet of lemon flavored sports drink powder to sprinkle on our shaved ice. I’ve had roasted soy powder (きな粉 / kinako) and brown sugar syrup (くろみつ / kuromitsu) shaved ice, which I’ll have to make this summer.
The genius around here suggested adding in some plum sake (梅酒 / umeshu) for a shaved ice cocktail. I want to try a shaved ice mojito next. Try simple syrup and any liquor (in moderation), or the shaved ice version of your favorite drink and let me know how it goes.
Other cold options - if shaved ice isn’t your thing
‘Frozen Yogurt’ as in putting a small container of yogurt in the freezer for an hour or two, mixing it up, then eating. Super yummy and healthier than ice cream.
‘Beer Float’ for a cold creamy beer. Japanese people hate root beer anyway. Vanilla is good, but try with different flavors of ice cream.
Homemade frozen pops, if you can’t find frozen pop molds, there are always paper cups. If fruit wasn’t so expensive here, I’d be making smoothies and homemade ice pops all the time.
Also homemade ice cream. I saw a mini ice cream maker at Nitori, but it makes about enough for one little scoop. If I’m gonna make homemade ice cream, I wanna make at least enough for two servings, plus more for later.
寒天 / Kanten jelly. It’s not frozen, but refreshing and fun to experiment with flavors and add-ins.
Stay cool out there!