Ice Cream in Japan

By Donnie | Articles

You know what I noticed about ice-cream in Japan? Some of the flavors are REALLY different, just things I wouldn’t have thought of making into ice cream. When I first came to Japan, one of the the things that struck me as interesting was how much smaller the containers of ice cream were in Japan. I walked through JUSCO, my local grocery store, and saw these little, cute 120 ml (almost 1/2 cup exactly) containers of Haagen Daas ice cream in the frozen foods section of the store. In the U.S. I’m used to seeing these huge, honkin’ (big) gallons of ice cream. It’s been a while, but I remember seeing Blue Bell, Edy’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Mayfield, and some of the other popular ice-cream makers. But I never, ever remember seeing containers of ice-cream this small. It’s wonderful if your trying to lose weight, because the serving sizes are so much smaller. But it sucks if you’re trying to go on an ice-cream binge because it’d take about twenty of these containers to pull it off. You know what? They’re expensive, too. This tiny container is …. and cost 247 yen. Even if the yen was at the 2008 exchange rates, that would be 247 yen for …. of ice cream. I remember being able to get nearly a gallon of ice cream for the price of two of these small containers.

284 yen for a half cup of ice cream? Yep, I'd say that's expensive. The special flavors like Orange Creme Brulet and Straberry Tiramisu were 336 yen for half-a-cup!

I LOVE ICE CREAM! There are so many different types, so many flavors, so many different shops to buy from. I must say that my favorite type of ice cream in the U.S. would flip-flop between prailines and cream (a vanilla-based ice cream with streaks of caramel, and candy-coated peanuts) and cookies and cream (‘nuff said). Let me not get started on the Butterfinger Blizzards from Dairy Queen…OH MY GOSH!

But here in Japan, you don’t have all of the same shops/ice-cream makers that you have in the United States. There is no Dairy Queen to speak of, and I haven’t seen Edy’s or Ben & Jerry’s in any of the grocery stores I’ve been to. Haagen Dazs, and …… have been my main sources of ice cream in the the stores. As far as shops, it’s usually Cold Stone Creamery or Baskin Robbins. In Japan, though, saying Baskin Robbins will probably get you a lot of blank stares. It’s endearingly known as 31 (referring to the 31 flavors Baskin Robbins is known for). The ice cream shops are just as good as they are back home, but slightly more expensive.

Green Tea Ice Cream from Hagen Dazs and the "Big Cup" of ice cream from Meiji (much cheaper, but still tasty)

There are flavors of ice cream that you may find in Japan that you don’t really see much of elsewhere. I had never tasted matcha (green tea) ice cream until I cam here. The same with sweet potato. I don’t ever have any intention of trying natto ice cream, but it does exist. There’s wasabe ice cream as well. Do you know what wasabe is? You sometimes see the tiniest dabs of it added to sushi. Just a little is enough to take off your whole face. I remember eating too much wasabe in one go, and it felt like I had found the cure to the common cold or at least cleared my sinuses and tear ducts for the rest of eternity. A former student of mine told me that there’s an ice-cream museum here in Japan, and I need to ask here where it is. I’ve heard they have some odd flavors there, too. One of them being chicken ice cream (with real chicken pieces in it!).

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
What’s your favorite ice cream shop?
If you live in Japan, have you tried any flavors that aren’t so common in the U.S.? (Green tea/matcha?, sweet potato?, natto (not kidding)?)

Please let me know in the comments section. I’ll go first…

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  • Donald Ash says:

    I said it in the post, but my favorite ice cream flavor is prailines and cream. My favorite ice cream shop has to be Cold Stone Creamery…SO FREAKIN’ GOOD! The “strangest” flavors I’ve tried have had to be sweet potato and green tea, but they were both good, so no complaints here 🙂

    • Nanami says:

      ; ;

      Green tea icecream.. how I miss it! Cold stone I get.. Sweet cream with marshmallows, gummy bears, white chocolate chips, in a white dipped waffle cone. With sprinkles.

      At least I get my green tea icecream soon. I’m going up to toronto for my interview soon ^_^!

      • Donald Ash says:

        Somehow I have a craving to go on a sugar binge, at this very moment. It’s all your fault, Nanami 😮

        • Nanami says:

          ^ ^;

          Well, I’m on my way up to Toronto. That seminar is the 4th. I get to have my Green Tea ice cream this week. I’m from WV, a Southern gal, and we just don’t have that around there! I’m also going to get to have some sushi, Korean BBQ and other Asian dishes that I’ve missed so much. Can’t wait. I’m a true gourmand at heart.

          • Donald Ash says:

            Wow, that’s coming up pretty soon, huh? I hope you enjoy the seminar and all the delicious foods that you’re craving. I hope all goes better than expected.

  • Vivian says:

    if you will observe, LACTO is not real ice cream but looks and seems just like the real thing. (but purists know it is not real and shun it)

    just see the back of the ice cream…look for the katakana. if it says ラックトor something like that, it’s the cheaper ice cream alternative.


  • Vivian says:

    My fave was the vanilla ice cream covered in a thin layer of mochi…u know it?

  • Ceci says:

    Oooo, green tea icecream. I love the stuff! I haven’t had it in years though. I need to find a recipe to make it myself. It’s not the kind of treat you tend to find in Mississippi. 😉

    • Donald Ash says:

      Green tea ice cream is really good and it’s so different than anything I’d normally have back home. If you figure out a recipe for good green tea ice cream, please pass it along, Ceci. Inquiring minds and sweet teeth want to know 🙂

  • devin says:

    OMG those ice cream containers are so small! I could seriously polish 15 off without breaking a sweat! 😉

    • Donald Ash says:

      Definitely. The containers are so small, you finish wondering why on earth the ice cream went so fast.

  • Roger Starkey says:

    The recipe is (in a bowl)

    1 Lotte Choco Pie – at the bottom
    1 vanilla Super Cup – on top of the Choco Pie

    Then melt creamy peanut butter in the microwave until liquid (it will be really hot) and drizzle over Super Cup. This will pool around the Choco Pie and melt it.

    For extra points add: bacon, maple syrup, chocolate syrup.

    • Donald Ash says:

      That sounds freakin’ awesome. Such a simple idea but a delicious one. Thanks Roger

    • Donald Ash says:

      Wait…Bacon? Really?

      • Roger Starkey says:

        Everything’s better with bacon…just look at the Denny’s (U.S.) menu. They have a Bacon Sundae. You were talking about things you missed…I missed the introduction of that!

        No joke though, just cook up some crispy bacon (or, if you’re like me, just heat some up from your supply in the fridge) and you’re on the way.

        • Donald Ash says:

          I never knew about the Bacon Sundae. I’ll have to give a try, Roger.
          LOL! Don’t worry about the introduction, it was still clever, regardless of the timing 😉

  • Deena says:

    The chestnut ice cream at the Japan Center in London is amazing , totally different to the stuff you usually get in the UK . It isn’t quite as good as their Green Tea Cheesecake -but nothing is

  • JAMES BOND says:

    I luved their egg icecream up where they boil the eggs inn the hotsprings it was amazing there coolish vanilla was amazing too if i went back the first thing id buy is there ice cream.

  • icecream girl says:

    yeah dont try the red bean YUK!!!! i know from a personal experience not a big fan of the textures!

    • Donald Ash says:

      I 200% agree on that! For some reason I wasn’t a fan of adzuki bean ice cream, either. Adzuki beans are cool by themselves, but adzuki chocolate & adzuki ice cream didn’t do a whole lot for me.

  • Samir Omerovic says:

    I am swedish and have to say swedish iice cream looks similar,its probably u americans who eat too much 🙂

  • Amy says:

    The ice cream is wonderful especially soft served. I took a trip to Japan barely a month ago and was lucky enough to try the Hagan Daz 30th year anniversary sakura ice cream. Hands down best ice cream I’ve ever had.

    • thejapanguy says:

      I am officially jealous of you, Amy. I never got to try the Sakura flavor. But hopefully they’ll re-release it when the time comes. I’ll be ready…spoon in hand 🙂

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