12 Weird Ice Cream Flavors You Must Try in Hokkaido, Japan


Sorry, America, but Japan's got you beat in the creativity department.

Like its Kit Kat bars, Japan's ice cream flavors are numerous, wacky and memorable. In particular, Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, offers an impressive range of ice cream options, some of which are downright delicious — and some of which are starkly inedible.

If you're anything like me — someone with a thirst for adventure and a penchant for frigid sweets — you'll do anything you can to try something new.

So, why not head to Hokkaido? Here are 12 of the island's most bizarre ice cream flavors you're guaranteed to come across:

1. Beer: You won't necessarily get drunk off of it, but, hey, who else can say they've eaten their beer before? The alcoholic treat is available in several cities, including Hakodate and Otaru, a small port town just west of Sapporo.

2. Cheese: The pungent taste is somewhat comparable to cheesecake. Look for it at the cheese factory in Higashimokoto and various shops around Hokkaido.

3. Green Pepper: No one would probably think to combine green peppers with anything other than a sandwich or pizza — but, surprisingly, the ice cream isn't as bitter as you'd think it'd be. Don't be afraid to order it when you head to the coastal town of Niikappu.

4. Ikasumi (Squid Ink): Perhaps the most famous on this list due to its pitch-black color, ikasumi, or "squid ink," ice cream is a notorious staple in Otaru. The ice cream is not overly fishy-tasting but just as teeth-staining as you'd imagine.

5. Kombu/Konbu (Kelp): Kombu/konbu, or "kelp," is an important staple for Hokkaido's coastal towns, but its flavor, even in ice cream form, is severely seafood-y. Feel free to taste-test the frozen treat in the Hidaka sub-prefecture or at the kelp museum near Hakodate.

6. Kumazasa (Bear Bamboo Grass): One of the largest types of grass, kumazasa, or "bear bamboo grass," makes for a pretty green color and ultimately refreshing flavor combination. You can snag one of these plant-based cones by heading to Rishiri or Abashiri.

7. Lavender: Purple-colored and with a flowery aroma, lavender ice cream is a yummy complement to the ubiquitous cherry blossom flavor. You can buy lavender soft-serve ice cream at Lake Mashu or Farm Tomita's lavender festival in Furano.

8. Marimo (Moss Ball): Marimo is the Japanese word for "moss ball," a type of green algae found only in a handful of lakes in the world. Keep your eyes peeled for the green soft-serve ice cream at Lake Akan where the moss balls grow.

9. Mermaid: This flavor isn't bizarre in terms of taste, but the name alone is enough to draw a crowd. The blue and orange ice cream, found near Kushiro, is allegedly made by mixing Blue Hawaiian shaved ice syrup with vanilla soft-serve ice cream.

10. Shibazakura (Moss Phlox): Shibazakura, or "moss phlox," is a type of pink moss, most famous for its springtime festivals in the towns of Higashimokoto and Takinoue. In ice cream form, the vividly pink moss phlox is subtle yet sweet.

11. Tomato: You probably won't enjoy tomato ice cream unless you're a big, big fan of tomatoes. It has a strong vegetable aftertaste (even though, yes, tomatoes are technically fruits). Tons of local shops sell it in individual cartons, similar to the cheese flavor.

12. Yomogi (Japanese Mugwort): Yomogi is the Japanese name for an edible herb called "Japanese mugwort." Despite its unappetizing name, the ice cream flavor is shockingly well-balanced and somewhat reminiscent of green tea. You can try the herb-infused ice cream at the Shiraoi Ainu Museum.

Hannah Muniz is a freelance writer and travel lover based in the greater Houston area. You can learn more by visiting her website.