For me, the best way to cool off during a hot summer day in Japan is kakigōri 「かき氷」, a Japanese dessert made of shaved ice flavored with various syrups.
If the ice cream does cool you off for a few minutes, a serving of kakigōri will help you fight the heat for a lot more time. Also compared to the ice cream, the feeling of “coolness” will be a lot more intense when you return outside, in the heat.
Considered a delicacy at the Imperial Court in Kyoto since the Heian period, kakigōri became available in the form we know today in 1869, in Yokohama and it became a popular treat in Japan around 1920s.
Kakigōri is served with a very large variety of flavors, especially fruit syrups and sometimes you can order assorted toppings, but my favorite is the simple matcha (green tea powder) version…
How to find kakigōri in Japan?
Look for a red-white-blue banner with the 氷 kanji on it. During summer, many stalls, coffee shops, restaurants or even stores have kakigōri and this is the way they advertise it.
How about you, what’s your favorite summer food?