The Best and Most Unique Flavors of Ice Cream in Japan
We sacrificed our waistlines and scoured all of Japan to bring you an EPIC post on where to find the most unique flavors and best ice cream in Japan. Since there are so many Japanese ice cream flavors to try, I don’t think we’ll ever have the chance to have ALL of them. But we think this list should help get you started when trying ice cream in Japan. We won’t judge you if you want each of the ones we’ve listed!
Chocolate Orange Ice Cream
Where: Near Kumamoto Castle
Location: Kumamoto, Japan
After a three-year hiatus of missing ice cream in Japan, we finally had a cone of orange vanilla soft serve in Kumamoto. This stand was located near Kumamoto Castle and they also had an orange and chocolate swirl flavor but we opted for the orange vanilla with the chocolate waffle cone! What we loved was the subtle hint of orange mixed with the creamy vanilla flavor.
Tottori Pear Ice Cream
Where: Tottori Flower Park
Location: Tottori, Japan
Pear-flavored ice cream might now be in one of my top flavors! It was so refreshing and was made with REAL pear juice. I only found this flavor in Tottori (probably because they are known for their fresh pears). So if you make the trek to Tottori don’t miss this flavor and overnight me some in a freezer box too!
24 Karat Gold Ice Cream
Location: Kanazawa, Japan
If a city has gold candy, souvenirs, and even gold ice cream it’s safe to assume there is a story behind that right? Well, Kanazawa means “marsh of gold.” It was named Kanazawa after a potato farmer was digging for his crop and he suddenly saw flakes of gold wash up! Now many ice cream shops in the city offer a vanilla ice cream cone with sprinkles of gold flakes AND a sheet of gold leaf carefully placed on top. Several places claim to have the authentic gold cone, but Hakuichi is the real deal.
One classic Japanese ice cream flavor is black sesame! Although you might not find it as often as you will matcha or vanilla, it is still pretty common to find and for that I’m grateful! Black sesame is one of my personal favorites. It’s nutty, mellow, and sweet at the same time but not overly sweet making it the perfect combination. If you’re a fan of peanut butter in ice cream give this a try!
Where: All over Japan, this specific sundae was from Miyajima!
Location: Miyajima Island, Japan
“Deer Poop” Ice Cream
I have to admit, this ice cream wasn’t one of my favorites. It was more like a combination of orange sherbet and ice cream which I know sounds nice but the texture was a bit gritty and the flavor was so-so. However, I still want to mention it because it is a novelty! On Miyajima Island, you’ll find hundreds of wild deer thus a few storefronts came up with the idea of “deer poop” ice cream. The flavor is orange with these little chocolate crunchies on it.
Location: Miyajima Island, Japan
Black Sugar and Plum Ice Cream
Where: Near Nachi Falls
Location: Nachi-Katsuura, Japan
The black sugar ice cream is a popular choice in Nachi-Katsuura so we naturally had to get one of those. But, while we shared a lot of ice cream in Japan, we couldn’t pass up trying the plum flavor too (even though it wasn’t technically in season at this time)! The black sugar tasted similar to brown sugar or salted caramel with a low-key smoky flavor too whereas the plum was a bit tart! If you have to pick just one though, definitely go for the black sugar since it’s more well-known in this area.
Pear Shaved Ice with Vanilla Ice Cream
Where: Kinokuni Fruit Village
Location: Wakayama, Japan
Wakayama has a ton of delicious fruit stands including Kinokuni Fruit Village on Wakayama Marina City. At the entrance of Kinokuni Fruit Village, there is a small stand that offers soft-serve ice cream and shaved ice. We got shaved ice that was topped with pear juice to add flavor, fresh pears, and vanilla ice cream. The flavors were light but very refreshing. Be sure to sample all the other fruits while you’re there!
Matcha & Vanilla Parfait
Where: Cafe Chaka
Location: Nara, Japan
Another way that you can enjoy ice cream in Japan is by indulging in an ice cream parfait. In Nara, Chaka is a cafe that specializes in tea, lattes, and ice cream parfaits. We were obsessed with the layers of matcha jelly, matcha cake, vanilla ice cream, frosted cereal, and toppings of matcha ice cream, dango, azuki (sweet red bean), and chestnut. But to add an extra element there is a freshly made biscuit on top in the shape of a deer, cause you’re in Nara!
Deer Biscuit Matcha Ice Cream
Where: Cafe Etranger Narad
Location: Nara, Japan
As if there weren’t enough kawaii desserts in Japan, the cutest, handmade deer cookie lies on top of a matcha and vanilla ice cream is swirled ice cream. Though these are classic flavors, the deer cookie and the chocolate and candy-dipped waffle cone make this Japanese ice cream extra special.
Hello Kitty Parfait
Where: Cafe de Miki Hello Kitty
Location: Himeji, Japan
Being the huge Hello Kitty fan that I am I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Cafe de Miki Hello Kitty while we were in Himeji. This parfait of vanilla ice cream with strawberry and raspberry puree was pure bliss. What made it even better was the adorable custard-filled daifuku on the side to complete this ever-so-sweet dessert set!
Uji Matcha Parfait
Location: Uji, Japan
More matcha, please! Uji is an area in Kyoto, which is known for its tea. So after visiting Byodoin Temple, we couldn’t resist getting another matcha parfait after trying one in Nara. This parfait is one we’re honestly still dreaming about. There is smooth vanilla ice cream with layers of matcha jelly and matcha ice cream with even more matcha in the swiss roll cake placed on top.
Where: Caffé CuoRe
Location: Kosanji Temple – Ikuchi Island, Japan
If you are visiting Japan in the spring you’ll find many Japanese sweets made with cherry blossoms so it’s only natural that sakura ice cream exists too! You can find sakura ice cream in many places around Japan from March-May. We found a delicious sakura gelato at Kosanji Temple that was dusted with matcha. Sakura has a very light floral flavor and if you enjoy lavender sweets you’ll probably love sakura too!
Charcoal Chocolate Ice Cream
Where: Owakudani Kurotamago Kan (Owakudani Valley)
Location: Hakone, Japan
As you can probably tell, we couldn’t get a great photo of the charcoal ice cream from Owakudani Valley. Because OMG… THE TYPHOON WINDS… *cue whooshing effect*. To be honest, we almost didn’t make it to Okakundai Valley in the first place, wind speeds plus ropeway don’t add up well. But, we’re glad we made it because this charcoal ice cream was unique with the charcoal cookie pieces added on to a chocolate and vanilla swirl. Be sure to get some of the black eggs while you’re there too, they’re said to add seven years to your life!
Lavender Ice Cream
Where: Near Lake Kawaguchi & Nakafurano Lavender Fields
Location: Fujikawaguchiko & Hokkaido
Before you ask, no lavender ice cream doesn’t taste like soap – when done properly! We tried lavender ice cream in two different places while in Japan. The first was in Fujikawaguchiko (Mt. Fuji area) near Lake Kawaguchi, the other being in Hokkaido, Logan’s motherland. Both were exceptional but had slightly different flavors. The one in Fujikawaguchiko had a lighter, yet more artificial lavender flavor. But the lavender ice cream in Hokkaido was more creamy and had a stronger lavender flavor, plus it was made with REAL lavender from the fields there.
Wasabi Ice Cream
Where: Daio Wasabi Farm
Location: Azumino City, Japan
One thing I never thought I’d get to say is we went to one of Japan’s largest wasabi farms and sampled all the wasabi things, including the wasabi ice cream. Wasabi ice cream might sound, you know… terrible, but guys we couldn’t pass up the opportunity and we are SO glad we tried it. It was surprisingly amazing and although you could taste the wasabi it was very light and there was no kick though it did make our lips tingle. If you’ve ever tried chili and mango it kind of has the same effect.
Matcha and Vanilla Gelato
Where: Near Matsumoto Castle
Location: Matsumoto, Japan
Gelato? In Japan? I know it can’t be compared to the real stuff in Italy but this was still pretty delicious. The owner of this small cafe makes the gelato fresh and scoops it out heavily for a side-by-side treat! We ordered the matcha and vanilla flavors.
Where: Zunda Saryo
Location: Sendai, Japan
So, yes… we understand that an edamame milkshake sounds pretty terrible, but you wouldn’t even know that it was edamame if we didn’t tell you! This milkshake is quite famous in Sendai which makes it completely necessary if you are visiting. It’s creamy, nutty, and topped with a sugary edamame paste that they also put on their signature edamame mochi.
Miso Ice Cream
Where: Ishii Miso
Location: Matsumoto, Japan
After having miso ice cream I can confidently say that right next to matcha, hojicha, and black sesame, miso is one of my favorite Japanese ice cream flavors. This cone from Ishii Miso Factory is made with their white miso and offers a rich, toasty and salty sweetness. After grabbing a cone buy some red or white miso to take home with you too!
Fresh Apple Sorbet
Location: Aomori City, Japan
Aomori is Japan’s apple prefecture so it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing when they make apple desserts. We had tons of apple pies, some better than the ones we’ve had in the U.S.A. – yep I said it, and we also tried some of the apple sorbet from A-FACTORY.
A-FACTORY is a market that has everything apple available from apple sweets, juices, beers, wines, and more so it’s the perfect place to grab some souvenirs for home too! We tried two different apple sorbets all made from fresh Aomori apples. To be honest we can’t remember which sorbets we selected but they let us try them all and decided to do a sweeter one and the other a bit more tart. Whatever you decide, you can’t go wrong!
Hokkaido Milk Ice Cream
Where: Yamanaka Dairy Farm Otaru Shop
Location: Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan
Hokkaido milk ice cream is something that all ice cream lovers should try before they die. It really should be a non-negotiable. The ice cream in Hokkaido is so creamy and delicious that we couldn’t help but eat as much as we could while we were there. Before you try all the fun flavors that Hokkaido has to offer, you’ll want to try some of their regular milk ice cream to get the full effect.
Hokkaido Melon Ice Cream
Where: Tomita Lavender Fields
Location: Nakafurano, Hokkaido, Japan
We already mentioned the lavender ice cream we tried in Hokkaido back when we talked about the lavender we had in Fujikawaguchiko, but one other ice cream flavor to try in Hokkaido is melon! Typically when we get a melon in the States they are super watery without a lot of flavor, but not in Hokkaido. The melons here are INCREDIBLE and juicy. So think about that all added to yummy ice cream!
Sunflower Ice Cream
Where: Hokuryu Sunflower Farm
Location: Hokuryu, Hokkaido, Japan
We have a thing for flower fields and we, fortunately, got to see a lot while in Japan. One of those is the Hokuryu Sunflower Farm where you can take tractor rides, take photos in designated spots, and eat yummy sunflower ice cream. The farm here takes harvested sunflower seeds, crushes them up, and then prepares them inside vanilla ice cream for a fun texture and nutty flavor.
Mixed Berry Baumkuchen Parfait
Where: Shiroi Koibito Park
Location: Nishi, Hokkaido, Japan
More parfaits! Shiroi Koibito is known for their thin, wafer-like cookies with chocolate in between each layer but man do they also know how to make a great parfait. They took a frozen glass and layered it up with strawberry puree, whipped cream, baumkuchen, berries, vanilla and chocolate twist ice cream, and topped it off with one of their signature cookies. It was the perfect treat to enjoy after visiting this interactive, sweet museum.
Orange Liqueur Ice Cream + Mini Glasses of Liqueurs to Add!
Where: Milk Mura
Location: Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
This was probably our favorite ice cream experience while in Japan because it was downright ADORABLE. Milk Mura can be hard to find but you’ll know once you’re there. The door outside alerts you that it’s Christmas year-round here and the inside is no different. The lights are dim but complete with twinkle lights. This place was so cute I honestly got teary-eyed. Yep, you read that right, I almost cried over ice cream.
Once you’re seated you’ll pay for the set which comes with 2-3 liqueurs to drizzle on top of your ice cream which is homemade vanilla with orange. Once you’ve eaten your first mug, order one more cause it’s no charge and you deserve all the ice cream in Japan you can get, especially in Hokkaido. P.S. Each person has to order their own set – there is no sharing here, but you wouldn’t want to anyway! 😉
Cherry and Lemon Ice Cream
Where: Near Kegon Falls
Location: Nikko, Japan
For our last day in Nikko, Logan rented a Japanese sports car and drove us to some of the windy roads and waterfalls in Nikko. Kegon Falls is easily one of our favorite waterfalls now and after visiting we were pretty hungry but knew that it was that awkward time where we were thinking “To eat, or not to eat, that is the question!” So, what did we do? Got ice cream.
In a small unnamed stand right outside Kegon Falls, there were three flavors of ice cream, cherry, lemon, and sakura. We wanted to get the sakura flavor but we were told it was seasonal (sad day!) so we opted for one of each, cherry and lemon. The lemon tasted like a lemon cream pie on a cone, while the cherry was the perfect balance of tart and sweet.
8 Layer Ice Cream
Where: Daily Chico
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Daily Chico is a little off the beaten path considering it is in the “outskirts of Tokyo” but if you want to try 8 flavors of ice cream in one (I mean shouldn’t that be a bucket list item?) then Daily Chico is your place. The flavors change daily so you never know what you might get but they’re all tasty! Our flavors this day included green tea, banana, ramune, Hokkaido melon, chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry (from bottom to top).
Watermelon Ice Cream Sandwich
Where: Dominique Ansel Bakery
Location: Tokyo, Japan
We’ll be honest, this ice cream wasn’t fantastic. Watermelon ice cream sounds great right? But instead, it was watery with very little flavor. I think it would have been better had they done a watermelon sorbet, but alas Dominique Ansel Bakery isn’t known for ice cream. We found out that this ice cream is more for looks than for taste. Our advice? Stick to what they do best, the pastries!
Update: We recently found out that Dominique Ansel Bakery closed its Tokyo location. So you’ll have to visit one of the other locations instead!
Boujee Ice Cream
Where: Eddy’s Ice Cream
Location: Harajuku (Tokyo)
I’m sure by now you’re probably wondering if ice cream in Japan can get any more unreal. Oh yes, it can. Eddy’s Ice Cream goes a step up by adding cookies, chocolates, and even cereal-covered chocolate designs. If the ice cream isn’t adorable and hashtag extra enough, you’ll also enjoy how cute the store is itself to make your Instagram dreams come true.
Melon Pan Ice Cream Sandwich
Location: Tokyo, Japan
On the busy Nakamise Shopping Street in Asakusa, a neighborhood in Tokyo, you can get two of our favorite Japanese sweet treats in one! Freshly baked melon pan, a sweet bread, filled with matcha or vanilla soft serve ice cream. One thing is for sure, this ice cream sandwich will blow your mind!
Vanilla Elephant Ice Cream
Where: Zounohana Cafe
Location: Yokohama, Japan
So after seeing Eddy’s Ice Cream this vanilla cone could be considered a bit boring, but I couldn’t help myself after seeing one transformed into an elephant’s darling face and I’m kind of wondering why this hasn’t happened even more?!
Shiroi Black Thunder Blizzard
Where: McDonald’s Japan
Location: Tokyo, Japan (other locations carried this as well)
McDonald’s isn’t usually on the list for us, but whatever the seasonal blizzard is should be a consideration when making your ice cream choices. Black Thunder is a popular candy in Japan and it is added to a blizzard only one time every year but there are also other blizzard flavors to try that are unique to Japan!
Location: Many locations in Japan
Halo Halo is a shaved ice dessert that is traditionally Filipino. It contains shaved ice or frozen fruit, and soft-serve ice cream. You can find it at Ministop, a convenience store chain that is located in many different cities in Japan. It has become very popular and has a few flavors so be sure to enjoy one of these refreshing treats during the summer in Japan.
Where: 10 Coffee Brewers
Location: Oita, Japan
If you are looking for a different kind of ice cream in Japan, these dessert shakes from 10 Coffee Brewers in Oita will be right up your alley. Logan got an Oreo cookie shake and I got a matcha chocolate shake. Not only were these shakes delicious, but they also looked pretty darn good too!
Vending Machine Ice Cream
Where: Most ice cream vending machines in Japan
Location: All over Japan
Of course, we had to get ice cream from a vending machine while in Japan! It’s pretty popular to get ice cream or milk to drink after spending some time in a Japanese onsen or to just enjoy it on its own. This Hershey’s ice cream bar was like an ice cream cone on the outside with rich, chocolate ice cream on the inside.
Coolish Ice Cream Pouch
Where: Any konbini such as 7 Eleven, Lawson, or FamilyMart
Location: Anywhere in Japan
Last but not least is the prized gem of ice cream in Japan, Coolish. These straight-up saved us from the summer heat during our three months in Japan and I’m not sure why these don’t exist in the States… anyone? It’s basically a juice pouch but instead of juice, there’s yummy ice cream inside. I’m pretty sure we downed at least 10 of these on our trip.
If you’ve made it this far in the post and didn’t keel over in a sugar coma, congrats! There are a TON of flavors of ice cream in Japan and even after visiting Japan a few times each year, we can’t even scratch the surface but we’ll keep trying!