Kakigōri (shaved ice) has come a long way from its aristocratic origins. Once the sole preserve of the Heian nobility, it trickled down to the masses in the late 1800s with the advent of industrialization. Today, no summer festival is complete without refreshing cups of shaved ice liberally doused with lurid-colored syrups.
Contemporary kakigōri is an art form in its own right, one of the most accessible, affordable summer extravagances. But not all kakigōri are created equal. Is the ice pure and delicious unadorned? How fine and fluffy are the ice crystals? Does it keep its shape as you dig in, or collapse at the slightest touch from a spoon? Is the ice tightly packed, or kept loose and airy? Is the ratio of flavoring to ice generous enough without compromising structural integrity?