The ultimate summer dessert

The Japanese have really figured out how to survive their unbearably hot and humid summers; and this is their weapon of choice:

KAKIGORI!

Kakigori is similar to a shaved ice snow cone, but so much better in my opinion. It is so smooth and light and fluffy that it feels like eating freshly fallen snow.

Step 1: shave ice until it becomes incredibly light and fluffy.
Step 2: pile it high in a glass
Step 3: pour syrup over it.
Step 4: Tuck into a chilled mountain of refreshing bliss

Have a look at this kakigori with natural mango syrup, adorned with fresh, succulent piece of ripe fruit.

To me, this is what heaven looks like on a searing summer's day. What an invention.

And now I will let you in on a secret. I will share with you the best Kakigori place in Japan. Really.

On the outskirts of Kyoto, close to the stunningly beautiful Katsura Imperial villa, you will find this establishment:

Nakamuraken.

It is kakigori heaven. And not only will you discover all sorts of natural and seasonal shaved ice creations in here (we tried yuzu -my favourite-, mango and matcha; but there are many different tastes depending on which month you visit), you can also enjoy a huge variety of award-winning traditional Kyoto sweets.

Be warned: Nakamuraken is so popular with the locals that you will have to wait your turn in summer, but trust me, it is worth it. All my Japanese friends assure me that this is the finest kakigori in the whole of Japan.

Nakamuraken was established around 130 years ago. Its interior is traditional...it is wonderful to taste delicious and refreshing kakigori and other treats in the relaxing tatami room while sipping tea.

Here is what the Japan times has to say about it.

Two of my other favourite kakigori treats were Tokyo's Himitsu-do (unusual flavours and natural ice from Nikko)...

...and the aptly named Ice Monster near Tokyo's Harajuku station. (There is also a branch in Osaka.)

Originally from Taiwan, some of Ice Monster's kakigori come with all sorts of fancy and delicious "accessoires", such as their Almond Sensation with sesame ice cream and mochi...
...or their half strawberry, half sweet condensed milk Strawberry Sensation:

If you are visiting Japan during the summer months, do not - I repeat - DO NOT leave Japan without trying kakigori.

Warning: Be careful...the stuff is addictive!

Are you a kakigori fan? Have you got any favourite places? Please leave a comment below to share them!

Kyoto:
Nakamuraken.
61, Katsura Asaharacho, Nishikyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 615-8021
11-minute walk from Hankyu katsura Station.
Closing day: Wednesday (unless it is a holiday)

Tokyo:
Ice Monster. Jingumae,Shibuya-ku,Tokyo 6-3-7
1 minute walk from Tokyo Metro Meiji Jingu-mae Station Exit 4
7 minutes walk from Tokyo Metro Omotesando Station Exit A1
5 minutes walk from JR Yamanote-Line Harajuku Station Exit Omotesando-guchi

Himitsu-do
3-11-18 Yanaka Taito Tokyo
03-3824-4132 (+81-3-3824-4132) (call to double check about opening times).