We were feeling a little blue yesterday. You see, the RocketNews24 office is just a short walk away from the Isetan department store in Tokyo’s Shinjuku. Earlier in the week, we’d stopped by to see the ferociously cuddly stuffed Godzilla that had been on display, but sadly, August 5 was his last day at Isetan.
It was sad to be parted from the King of the Plush Monsters, but as the saying goes, God never closes a door without opening a window. Or in this case, a bottle, because Isetan also has something that can drown the sorrow in our hearts while cooling us off in the oppressive summer heat: alcoholic shaved ice with shochu.
Shaved ice in Japan is usually a pretty simple affair. In general, you get a bowl of ice, a dash of syrup, and that’s it. Things are a little different down in Kyushu’s Kagoshima Prefecture, though, where the local shaved ice variant, called Shiro Kuma, comes festooned with fruit and covered in condensed milk.
Something else Kyushu is famous for is shochu. Commonly made from barley, sweet potatoes, rice, or brown sugar, the distilled spirit is the alcohol mixed into Japan’s ubiquitous sour and chu-hi cocktails. In the case of premium brands, though, like Kagoshima’s Morizou, shochu is drunk straight or on the rocks.
From now until August 11, the Shinjuku Isetan is holding the Great Kyushu Exhibition for Adults, which gathers a number of delicacies from Japan’s southwestern island together under the same roof. We found one item that was both intriguing and intoxicating, Shiro Kuma for Adults.
The 1,512-yen (US $15) set includes two different types of mature shaved ice. The Western-style is topped with a wine-infused gelatin, but what really drew us in was the Japanese-style, which uses Morizou shochu. The fact that it’s being offered by Mujaki, a well-known restaurant from Kagoshima City’s Tenmonkan entertainment district, sweetened, and sealed, the deal.
We arrived at Isetan around 3 in the afternoon on a weekday, but a few vendors from Kyushu had already sold out of their most popular items. Thankfully, Mujaki was still serving its alcoholic shaved ice, so we put in an order right away. Soon enough we had our frozen treats in front of us, but we have to say, compared to the photo on the poster we’d seen, they were a little underwhelming, visually.
▼ The wine gelatin sure is pretty, though.
Moving on to the sense of smell, there was a definite aroma of alcohol wafting from our two cups. There’s nothing really added to soften the smell, and it was a little like we’d just cracked open a cask from our wine cellar/shochu storehouse.
▼ You’d be surprised at the olfactory impact of even 10 ml (0.37 oz.) of shochu.
▼ Usually it takes four or five rounds before we start spilling our drinks, but this is on purpose.
So, how do they taste?
Exactly like they smell.
Take a bite of either one, and the impression you’re left with is, “Yup, I sure am eating a bowl of ice and booze!” We realize that’s to be expected, but we were kind of hoping for something that blended the best of both worlds of Shiro Kuma and alcoholic beverages. Instead, what we’ve got here leans completely toward the latter, so much so that if what you’re really in the mood for is Shiro Kuma, this probably isn’t going to do much in the way of satisfying your craving.
On the other hand, if you feel syrupy sweets are no match for stiff drinks, this novel indulgence might be just what you need on a hot summer day. We emphasize day, by the way, since Mujaki is only offering 50 sets of Adult Shiro Kuma each day. If you’re planning to go on the weekend and don’t want to miss out, it’s probably better to go sooner than later, so you’ve officially got our permission to drink (well, eat) before noon.
Great Kyushu Exhibition for Adults / おとなの大九州展
Isetan Shinjuku 6th floor /伊勢丹新宿店6F催事場
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-14-1
Open 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. (10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. August 11)
[ Read in Japanese ]