5 Unique Soft Serve Flavors of Japan

Japan has a reputation for unconventional and adventurous flavors that few others would think or even dare to attempt. Here are 5 must try soft serve flavors that highlight Japan’s unique taste profiles and the regions famous for their interesting flavors.

1. Plum (Ume)

Ume soft serve at Kairakuen ©Kay Allen

Ume soft serve at Kairakuen ©Kay Allen

Let’s start off with the tamest of the bunch. Not to be confused with plums commonly found in the United States, the Japanese variety or ume is more closely related to the apricot and is not suitable to be eaten raw. Ume is most often eaten pickled (umeboshi) or used to make wine (umeshu) but it also makes a delicious soft serve with a distinct floral note and sweetness. You can grab a cone and admire the famous plum blossoms (late February – mid March) while strolling through Mito city’s Kairakuen gardens located in the Ibaraki prefecture just 2 hours northeast of Tokyo.

Plum Blossoms in Kairakuen ©Kairakuen Park

Plum Blossoms in Kairakuen ©Kairakuen Park

 

From Tokyo take the Hitachi or Tokiwa express line to Mito station and then take the Kairakuen bus directly to the garden.

http://japan-magazine.jnto.go.jp/en/1412_plumfestival.html

 2. Wasabi

Wasabi ice cream cone ©MGA73bot2

Wasabi ice cream cone ©MGA73bot2

Most westerners wouldn’t conceive of the spicy green paste most often associated with sushi converted into a sweet cold treat but the resort town of Izu, in Japan’s Shizuoka prefecture, has perfected the confection. Waterfalls such as Jyouren no Taki deliver clean mountain spring water downstream to delicate beds of wasabi plants or wasabiden, making Izu renowned for its quality wasabi. The soft-serve itself has a sweetness similar to vanilla with a distinct spicy aftertaste. One can enjoy this unconventional treat just outside the trail to the famed waterfall which leads tourists through a lush green forest and past the wasabi paddies. A definite must visit.

Jyouren no taki and wasabi paddies

Jyouren no taki and wasabi paddies downstream ©Kay Allen

 

From Mishima station take the Izu-Hakone railway Sunzu line to Shuzenji station and then take the Tokai bus to Jyouren no Taki bus stop.

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/shizuoka/amagi_kawazu.html

3. Miso

Miso soft-serve from Takeya Miso Kaikan ©Evan Liu

Miso soft-serve from Takeya Miso Kaikan ©Evan Liu

Few flavors are as singularly Japanese as miso. The fermented soybean paste has been a staple of the Japanese diet for centuries and is used in countless dishes from simple soup stocks and marinades to sauces for meat and vegetables. Visitors to the Nagano prefecture can take a break from traversing the Japan Alps and head down to the Takeya Miso Kaikan on Lake Suwa. There you can learn about the centuries old art of miso while sampling the many delicious culinary incarnations. Be sure to try the miso soft serve while you are there for a salty sweet flavor experience that you’re sure to remember.

Panorama of Lake Suwa, Nagano ©そらみみ (Soramimi)

Panorama of Lake Suwa, Nagano ©そらみみ (Soramimi)

Take the Chuo Main Line to Kamisuwa station and it is just a short 15 minute walk to the Takeya Miso Kaikan.

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/nagano/suwako.html

http://www.takeya-miso.co.jp/english/index.html

4. Bitter Melon (Goya)

Goya soft-serve at Goya Park ©ゴーヤーパーク (Goya Park)

Goya soft-serve at Goya Park ©ゴーヤーパーク (Goya Park)

 

Okinawans often attribute their notable longevity and health to their diet of native fruits and vegetables, specifically the goya or bitter melon. This vitamin rich fruit is an Okinawan staple and is used in many dishes; the most well-known is the Okinawan stir fry dish known as goya champuru. There is even a whole park (Goya Park) dedicated to goya that is open to the public free of charge. There you can sample this bittersweet soft-serve treat along with many other goya based foods while you walk the grounds.

Sliced goya ©Pixeltoo

Sliced goya ©Pixeltoo

From Naha Airport, go to the bus terminal and take the Nago Tousen bus to the last stop where taxis are available.

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/okinawa/hokubuokinawa.html

http://www.goyapark.com/park/index.php (Japanese site)

5. Squid Ink (Ika Sumi)

Ika sumi soft-serve ©Katherine Donaldson

Ika sumi soft-serve ©Katherine Donaldson

The area of Hakodate in Japan’s northern most prefecture of Hokkaido is renowned for its seafood. The morning market in Hakodate is a great place to sample and purchase the freshest seafood Hakodate has to offer. So fresh in fact that a favorite tourist pastime is squid fishing in the market’s fish tanks, where a successful catch can be instantly prepared as sashimi. Hokkaido Farm, a popular ice cream parlor at the far end of the market, has found a way to marry Hakodate’s famous seafood with Hokkaido’s high quality dairy products with their squid ink soft serve. The shop boasts a delicious soft serve that is free of additives and uses only the freshest cream. Visitors who can look past the gray color are in for a sweet surprise.

©663highland

©663highland

Hakodate Morning Market is located just across the street from Hakodate station.

http://www.hakodate.travel/en/things-to-do/top7/morning-market/

43 comments
TomSawyer6
TomSawyer6

Loved the wasabi soft serve but really enjoyed the purple sweet potato ice cream called by the name for the color purple (muraski ?)


TomSawyer6
TomSawyer6

Like the wasabi, but really liked the purple sweet potato murisaki? 

Jim Hastings
Jim Hastings

I always say, "try anything at least once!"


CascadianAbroad
CascadianAbroad

I really enjoy the sakura (cherry blossom) flavor that pops up in the springtime. Our town in Saitama is famous for sweet potatoes, so we also get satsumaimo ice cream year around!

Kim Pham
Kim Pham

lol you know mee tooooo welllllll

Uyen Luong
Uyen Luong

I say eww. But you might say yum Kim Pham.

Wendy Anne Arrowsmith
Wendy Anne Arrowsmith

Anna Maria Erceg have a great time, hope you get to try some of these flavours \U0001f60a

Nanna Alroth
Nanna Alroth

I want them all, especially ume! Had matcha icecream in Kyoto. And some coal black icecream too.

Jo Newburry
Jo Newburry

Wasabi is yum so sweet n spicy. Squid ink was good too but staining can occur plum is tame they also make snake venom and eels ice cream there's a museum dedicated too ice cream in Tokyo

Tania LoNero
Tania LoNero

Well don't know about viper but I can't have beef so no on the beef tongue. They say Pit viper tastes like bile. So I am Leary of it but I will try it once. LOL But if I get sick, its not my fault. ;)

Andrew Floyd
Andrew Floyd

How about Pit Viper and Beef Tongue ice cream? ;)

Tania LoNero
Tania LoNero

I am willing to try every single one! Especially the Wasabi!

Jazmin Derby
Jazmin Derby

Tom Derby we were just talking about this lol

Benjamin Snyder
Benjamin Snyder

My favorite soft serve flavor is black sesame. Mitsuwa Marketplace has it and I can't go there without getting some from the Matcha Love by Ito En shop.

Jerry Durrett
Jerry Durrett

Yes green tea sounds pretty tame by comparison. Lol.

Niki Sz
Niki Sz

At Furano there is lavender ice cream. Well, for me it was also unique (and tasty). :) I wonder about the ink squid flavour...

Kim Colleary
Kim Colleary

I wouldn't have thought that. Thanks! :)

Kim Colleary
Kim Colleary

I wonder what squid ink ice cream taste like...

Dan Moreno
Dan Moreno

Squid ink flavored ice cream? Um.. I'll pass.