After the rainy season, blue and white banners with a red kanji character for “ice” (氷) spring up all over Japan. You can find them on restaurants, convenience stores, and temporary stalls set up for the season. The flags advertise kakigori, or shaved ice, a summer favorite since the Edo period.
Kakigori comes in many forms and is enjoyed by all ages. Finely chopped ice is topped with a flavored syrup such as melon, lemon, strawberry, grape, or green tea. Sometimes the syrups are mixed to create marbled colors. It is frequently sweetened with condensed milk or ice cream. Sometimes it is served with tapioca, sweetened red beans, or fresh fruit.
As with most things, you get what you pay for. Fancy restaurants have elevated the simple dish into a gourmet dessert with high-quality ingredients served in elegant dishes. However, people probably have the most nostalgia for the brightly colored, sugary versions in paper cups from festival stalls. Why not try some when you visit Japan, and create your own summertime memories?