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Shining a spotlight on Japan

Shining a spotlight on Japan

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With the re-arranged Olympic Games (hopefully) due to take place in Tokyo this summer, the spotlight is being shone on all things Japanese.

This exciting country is renowned for its unique food culture, pushing flavour boundaries to the extreme, and many of its dishes are finding their way onto UK menus. The ice cream category is no exception, with Japanese influences set to shake up the scene this summer. 

Ice innovators

According the Dairy Reporter, Japan was responsible for one in 10 ice cream product launches globally in 2019-20, overtaking the US to become the world leader in ice cream innovation.

Speaking in reference to the 2020 Mintel Global New Product Database, Kat Vlietstra, global food and drink analyst for Mintel, said: “The growing popularity of Japanese cuisine paves the way for ice cream brands to utilise traditional Japanese flavours such as hojicha (roasted green tea) and yuzu. Quirky combinations, unique flavours and unusual ice cream cones are all well-positioned to appeal to customers globally.”

Gelato Japanese-style

The land famous for sushi, tempura and yakitori is in the throes of a major love affair with gelato and ice cream. According to a survey by the Yano Research Institute, ice cream ranks as the number one dessert choice in Japan, with 78% of respondents saying they love or like it, and 53% say they eat it more than once a week.

Its popularity has seen a huge number of gelato parlours opening up offering a staggering array of weird and wonderful flavours, alongside the more traditional varieties.

Soft serve ice cream parlours are extremely popular and renowned for their eccentric flavours and presentation. Mushashi in Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi, has the largest variety in Japan, offering a staggering 140 flavours to choose from, including wasabi, red pepper, soy sauce and ramen.

Rolled ice cream, which originated in Thailand, is also growing in popularity, particularly amongst younger consumers.

Flavour fusion

Traditional Japanese gelato flavours in Japan include matcha, cherry blossom and sweet potato, but you’ll also find decidedly more unconventional flavours such as seaweed, natto (a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans), garlic and mayonnaise!

In spite of this, vanilla is still hailed as the most popular flavour, with chocolate in second place, cookies and cream third and matcha fourth. 

 Japanese gelato is not all about sweet flavours either. There are lots of savoury varieties on offer too for adventurous foodies, such as:

  • Sesame
  • Sake
  • Squid ink
  • Octopus
  • Chicken wing
  • Miso
  • Beef tongue
  • Python

The mochi movement

Another popular frozen, handheld treat heading out of Japan is mochi ice cream (pronounced mo-chee).

Essentially, it’s a ball of ice cream encased in pillowy soft, rice paste mochi, and dusted with potato or corn starch.

These cute, two-bite confections were invented by Japanese-American, Frances Hashimoto, in the 1980s, and they’ve become increasingly popular worldwide ever since.

Here are a couple of Japanese-inspired gelatos for you to try:

Saki and San Manzano tomato sorbet

This refreshing sorbet can be moulded to re-create the Japanese flag

Saki Sorbet


1500ml sake

1500ml water

450g sugar                                                                                                         

450g Rubicone base happy hour


Blend everything together.

San Manzano tomato sorbet


1000g San Manzano tomatoes           

841g water                                                 

660g sugar

150g Irca joybase premium fruit 100

10g Irca svelto

25g Lemon Juice  


Blend everything together.

Miso and 7 spice pepper

Spice up your menu with this flavoursome combo


4 litres of White Base

400ml Miso

7 Spice Pepper (at will)


Blend the Miso into the white base. Then use the 7 spice pepper as an inclusion and on the top to finish it off.

Download our dedicated gelato and ice cream magazine The Scoop.

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