Summer in Tokyo is hot and sticky. People waving paper fans are a common sight, as are older folks splashing buckets of water onto sidewalks to cool them down. On days when the air is so heavy and basic activities feel like a chore, people turn to sweet refreshments. Traditional treats like kakigōri, Japan’s customary version of shaved ice with fruit and syrup, and fresh fruit (flawless melons from the north of Japan and mangos from the south) make the summer easier to savor. Here are a few of our favorite gourmet spins on the classics.
An elegant glass of something sweet, cool and refreshing is the perfect pause in a day of shopping around Roppongi Hills. The Grand Hyatt Tokyo’s Fiorentina Pastry Boutique is offering refreshing gelées in eight flavors, including bright bursts of grapefruit, raspberry, lemon and fruit blends through August. They’re just right for spooning under an umbrella on the patio overlooking the shady promenade of Keyaki-zaka.
The upscale Ginza district becomes a pedestrian paradise on weekends, with the main road closed to cars. If the crowds of beautiful people become too much of a good thing on a hot day, retreat to the quiet confines of Higashiya, a beautiful tea room that is a world away from the outside clamor. In the cool, hushed exquisiteness of the upstairs space, icy mounds of fluffy hand-shaved kakigōri ice doused generously in refreshing ume pickled plum syrup or the uniquely sweet Japanese citrus called amanatsu, will make the heat of the day melt away.
The airy, sky-lit Peak Lounge at the Park Hyatt Tokyo is also adding kakigōri to its popular afternoon tea sets. A choice of tea by the pot (think green tea or mango) is served with a selection of pastries created by executive pastry chef Anthony Stettler, and plenty of the aforementioned fresh fruit that Japan is known for. The shaved ice can also be enjoyed with mountain grape syrups.
Swiss Chocolatier Lindt also has a special tropical treat for Tokyo: the mango chocolate frappé. Tangy mango is blended with Lindt’s sweet milk chocolate chips and a hint of refreshing lime for a summer rejuvenator that is sure to keep you cool. Sip it from a tall glass in the Ginza Lindt shop or get one to go from any of the other five counter shops around the city.
With a history dating back to 1753, Kyo-hayashiya has had plenty of time to come up with tea-based delights that go beyond the traditional hot or iced. Its serene tea rooms throughout Tokyo are relaxing respites for enjoying frozen parfaits made with cubes of jelly, swirls of ice cream and generous dollops of mousse all flavored with green or roasted Japanese tea. Seasonal fruit and whipped cream top off the concoctions. Kyo-hayashiya is also known for pillowy mounds of kakigōri big enough for several people to share. There’s even a shop in Haneda Airport, perfect for a final delight on your way out of town.
Photo Courtesy of Higashiya Ginza