The first Japanese people to try ice cream were likely the Samurai who visited America in 1860. According to American news stories from the time, they liked it.In 1869, Japan produced its first ice cream in Yokohama but at 25 yen per serving it was a luxury that was out of reach to most people. By 1902, the price had fallen to 1 yen and ice cream was increasingly familiar to urban people in Japan.Initially a western style snack, ice cream traditions have evolved in Japan that incorporate Japanese ingredients. These Japanese flavors of ice cream include both classics and novelty flavors that don't last long or are sold in a particular region as a local souvenir. The following products and flavors can be considered classics and are familiar to most people in Japan.
1. Matcha Ice Cream
Matcha is a type of high quality Japanese green tea powder with a distinctive taste that's a common ice cream flavor in Japan. In many cases matcha ice cream doesn't contain any matcha. Real matcha is reasonably expensive and cheaper green tea powders are usually used for ice cream.
2. Cream Anmitsu
Anmitsu is a Japanese dessert bowl made with anko, cubes of agar, mochi, fruit, chestnuts and other ingredients. When it is topped with a scoop of ice cream it is known as Cream Anmitsu
3. Yukimi Daifuku
Ice cream balls wrapped in mochi that come in a variety of flavors. Released in 1981, Yukimi Daifuku were the first mochi ice cream.
Pino are a brand of chocolate covered ice cream snacks first launched in 1976. Their red and white packaging has been a familiar sight in Japan ever since.
5. Japanese Honey Toast
In its simplest form, Japanese Honey Toast is an extremely thick piece of toast with honey and ice cream on top. It's commonly loaded with other ingredientssuch as fruit as well.
6. Sakura Ice Cream
Sakura blossoms are more of an idea than a flavor. That is to say, they don't have much of a flavor. However, they are such a powerful cultural symbol in Japan that people want to eat them.
7. Gari Gari Kun
A line of ice bars with a kakigori center that are often the cheapest item in the ice cream section of convenience stores in Japan. The product's mascot, Gari Gari Kun was originally drawn to look poor to highlight the product's cheap price.
Coolish is a brand of soft ice cream sold in an insulated package with a tube at the top. It comes in several flavors but vanilla is by far the most popular. Out of the freezer, it needs to thaw slightly before eating.
Monaka are a traditional Japanese dessert that have a crispy outer shell filled with sweet ingredients such as anko, chestnut paste and mochi. Monaka shells are also used to create ice cream sandwiches in Japan.
10. Suika Ba
Suika Ba, literally "watermelon bar", is a watermelon flavored flavored ice snack with chocolate chips for seeds.
The Japanese ice cream market is highly competitive and products with a low price tend to be the best sellers. As a result, many "ice cream" products aren't true ice cream but are based on soy or rice. Others do contain milk but only in small quantities. MOW is a line of real ice cream products that advertise the quality of their ingredients.
12. Yuzu Ice Cream
Yuzu is a bumpy, pungently bitter Japanese citrus fruit. Its peels are used to flavor ice cream and sorbet.
Ikasumi, or squid ink, is an increasingly common ingredient in Japanese cuisine in recent years. It has a dark black color and is used both as a food coloring and flavor. Several tourist spots in Japan sell a shocking flavor of ice cream that might include trace amounts exotic ingredients such as snake. Such flavors of ice cream are equally strange to the Japanese as they seem from outside. Ikasumi ice cream originally fell into this category of novelty flavors for tourists but in recent years is making appearances at regular ice cream shops.
Ume are bitter Japanese apricots that are a somewhat common ice cream flavor in Japan.
Tofu Ice Cream is a term that's often applied to ice cream made with soy milk. In Japan, tofu is also considered a flavor of ice cream. In rare cases, tofu ice cream in Japan is made with milk and is tofu flavored rather than tofu based.
16. Coffee Jelly
Coffee Jelly is a simple gelatin dessert made with black coffee. It has a strong coffee taste and is usually served with vanilla ice cream.
Kinako is roasted soybean powder. It's sweet with a taste that's just as distinctive as maple sugar. It's commonly used as a topping for ice cream.
Kuzumochi is a light, thick jelly made with starch from the Japanese Arrowroot plant. It's virtually tasteless but has a refreshing cool texture that matches ice cream well.
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