When you think of Saitama’s famous shaved ice cafes, where comes to mind? For me, Azami Reizo, Kore ga kakigori, Craft Cafe and Yamadaya are the first that come to mind. We’ve been to three out of four and so far, and for us personally, Yamadaya is our top pick. If you are visiting Tokigawa over the summer, Yamadaya is well worth a visit. (See reasons to visit Tokigawa near the bottom of the post!) However, be warned – Yamadaya is not for the impatient. Because at this time of the year, it is rare not to find a queue at this excellent shaved ice cafe, quite literally located under a bridge!
Yamadaya Shaved Ice
Yamadaya has featured in countless magazines and on several TV programmes. People quite literally come from all over Japan to taste the famous snow cones. Just take a look at the reg plates in the parking lot! With the result it is rare not to have to queue up here if you visit in summer. Generally, the wait is about an hour. Most people take out their shaved ice (Kakigori in Japanese), because the seating area is equally popular, but also very small so you have to wait even longer for a seat sometimes. Things ran a bit more smoothly when the indoor section was open, but it remains closed as a precaution against the spread of the Coronavirus.
You could easily miss the cafe entrance if it weren’t for all the signs outside it! You go through a little gate, down stairs, along a foot bridge and then down a steep slope, which unfortunately is suited neither to wheelchairs or strollers.
At the bottom of the slope you’ll probably have encountered a queue already! But if not go to the left of the bridge’s pillar and wind your way around to the machine where you order your kakigori from an electronic screen. You pay up front at the machine and move forward to wait for your kakigori. There is usually one staff member directing people and helping people use the machine.
There is a fixed menu and a seasonal menu. The fixed menu has a small size “omatsuri syrup” which is the cheapest shaved ice on the menu. It costs 500 yen and you can get one of five flavors: strawberry, blue hawaii, melon, lemon or cola. The next size up offers even more flavors such as mango, peach and pineapple for example, for 700 yen. You can also pay 200 yen more to have fresh cream added. The main menu has a lot of Sayama Green tea snow cones as well as strawberry and blueberry.
But it is the seasonal menu that brings people back time and time again. The seasonal menu is quite large, relatively speaking. There are usually about eight different offerings on the seasonal menu. Five of them cost 1000 yen and the remaining three, the creme de la creme, cost 1200! Right now the fresh strawberries X fresh cream (1200 yen) is just to die for. Two of us got that, one with regular ice, one with natural ice. I personally recommend paying the extra for the natural ice…
For an extra 250 yen you can have natural ice. Natural ice is pretty fascinating to me. For generations there were dozens of Natural Ice Farms in Japan. Now, supposedly there are only five. Yamadaya’s natural ice is made in Kanagawa at the birth place of the Yamadaya trade name. The natural ice is farmed, using age old techniques, from spring water. Honestly, you can taste the difference. Natural ice melts in your mouth in a way artificial ice can’t.
⚠Please note that they only have a limited number of natural ice each day. Same for some of the flavorings. It is not uncommon for the natural ice and / or flavorings to run out in the afternoon of a busy day.
The seating area
The main outdoor seating is idyllic. It is basically a veranda in a narrow, verdant ravine with beautiful matures trees and greenery. The veranda overlooks a natural babbling brook and, although you can’t really see them, you can hear two small waterfalls nearby. There is also a seating area under the bridge, which is normally easier to secure a table at, because everyone wants to sit in the ravine! You can always get the take out and bring it next door to Sanba Gorge for that lush natural environment feel!
Things to do in Tokigawa this summer
Reasons you might find yourself in Tokigawa this summer!
- Camping at the excellent Kinomura or glamping at the trendy Comoriver Tokitama Himitsu Kichi
- Hydrangea viewing at the beautiful Suzumegawa Dam
- River play at the Samba Gorge
- Sunflower viewing
- Visiting the Totoro or the Catbus bus stop!
- Tasting famous milk coffee – there’s a Totoro bus stop at this location too!
- Participating in a washi workshop
Spot: Yamadaya Shaved Ice かき氷 山田屋
Season: particularly popular in summer. But if you want to avoid the crowds its actually better to go in winter! However, in winter they only open on Saturdays and Sundays.
Hours: varies and please note there are times that they open late or close early.
Cost: from 500 yen, but the limited edition (seasonal) menu, which I can’t recommend high enough, start from 1000 yen. Natural ice costs an additional 250 yen.
Address: 575-1 Tanaka, Tokigawa, Hiki District, Saitama 355-0357. View on Google Maps.
You know, even if you go nowhere in Tokigawa, its worth a visit for the station alone! Myokaku Station is one of the most beautiful train stations. It is number 18 on the official 100 best train stations in Kanto list. The shaved ice cafe is about a 30 minute walk from the station. Or you can take a 4 minute bus ride from Myokaku Station to Seseragi Bus Center and walk the rest of the way. Its about a 10 to 15 minute walk from the Seseragi Bus Center. There is free parking if you come by car, but please note that it is not uncommon to have to wait for a parking spot.