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10 Places to Eat This Iconic Japanese Dessert

PHOTO: Machimura Nojo Farm Odori

From a sake museum and tea shop to a kitschy cafe tucked inside an office building, these are the best places to try soft cream in Sapporo.

With its lush geography and rich resources, Hokkaido is known for its high-quality food, from unbelievable produce and stunning seafood to fresh milk and dairy products. A trip to the island’s largest city, Sapporo, is a must, and visitors shouldn’t miss a taste of the country’s iconic soft cream (aka soft serve ice cream) while there. From classic dairy farms and kitschy shops serving booze on top to old-school ice cream parlors serving soft cream developed for an emperor, Sapporo offers a taste of soft cream for everyone.

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PHOTO: Milk Village (Mirukumura)
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Milk Village (Mirukumura)

Like many of Japan’s dining destinations, this den of frozen treats is hidden. In a nondescript office building near the city’s busy Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade, part of the allure of Milk Village is the kitsch: twinkling lights and decorations cover the walls, polka dot tablecloths and colored, tufted seats adorn the dining room, and campy classical tunes play in the background. But the real reason to visit? The mug of classic vanilla soft cream—creamy, rich, and smooth—gets a grown-up twist: a side of three shots, your choosing, from a wide selection including local Japanese spirits and eclectic International liquors.

INSIDER TIPOne mug not enough soft cream? (Of course not!) Ask for a second (complimentary) mug of soft cream to finish the liquors off. Just make sure to save room for the housemade cookies, served with the after ice cream coffee.

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PHOTO: Need Swanya / Shutterstock
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Gyokusuien Tea Shop

Step into this 80-year-old specialty tea shop, near Odori Park, and you’ll be greeted with the scent of freshly roasting tea leaves. You’ll find a wide range of high-quality teas and tea supplies here, and you can enjoy a cup of properly brewed tea. But for soft cream fiends, the real gem is the parfait, a green-tea waffle cone stuffed with adzuki bean jam and matcha ice cream, and topped with a swirl of lush, milky soft cream. Seasonal variations include a cherry blossom ice cream added into the mix during the spring, or a Mandarin orange sauce spooned on top in the winter.

INSIDER TIPHungry for something savory? Before the soft cream, try Gyokusuien’s ochazuke, a classic Japanese dish that combines rice with hot tea for a quick soup. Their version adds venison for a hearty, warming soup that’s rich, delicious, and perfect for a snowy Sapporo day.

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Chitosetsuru Sake Museum

For fans of sake, this small museum, operated by Sapporo’s only sake brewery, Chitosetsuru, offers a general look into the world of sake, including exhibits on brewing and vintage advertisements. It’s primarily a shop, however, with a wide assortment of sakes for sale, including some hard-to-find bottles, as well as other Japanese delicacies and souvenirs. And while the shop does offer tastings, sweet seekers would do well to try the sake kasu soft cream, made with leftover rice from sake production. With just a hint of booziness, it’s slightly aromatic and has a gentle, sweet flavor of sake.

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PHOTO: Machimura Nojo Farm Odori
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Machimura Nojo Farm Odori

If you’re a soft cream lover, it’s likely you’ve got a big sweet tooth, which means a visit to Bisse Sweets, a dessert food court on the ground level of Odori Bisse shopping mall—is a pretty good idea. Inside you’ll find an outpost from Machimura Nojo Farm, a 100-year-old Hokkaido dairy farm that produces some of the area’s best cream. Not only do they do killer dairy, but visit this location and you can also get the double farm treat of trying the soft cream on top of doughnuts made from the farm’s milk and wheat. Just remember, you’re in a dessert food court, so you might want to leave room for other treats.

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PHOTO: Bocca Odori Bisse
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Bocca Odori Bisse

And if you can manage two soft cream servings, Odori Bisse has another location that’s equally worth checking out. Bocca is an outpost of a dairy farm in Date City, and not only do they offer soft cream made with the super fresh, super rich cream, but they also specialize in milk pudding, a creamy liquid suspended in a balloon-like shell that pops in your mouth when punctured. The green tea parfait is highly recommended for its mix of sweet-salty flavors; along with a Bocca milk pudding ball, the parfait is served with a sweet soy sauce, which adds a hit of umami flavor to the dessert.

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PHOTO: rayints / Shutterstock
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The Soft Cream House

This little stand in the middle of the Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade offers the popular Cremia soft cream brand, a favorite in Japan for its high-quality cream and high milk fat content. Like many soft cream shops, the flavor is simple—pretty much basic vanilla—but this is not your common soft cream cone. Unlike the traditional swirl, this soft cream comes in a starburst shape, and the cone is not a waffle one, but a sweet cookie wafer.

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PHOTO: Yukijirushi Parlor Facebook/ Website
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Yukijirushi Parlor

Looking for a touch of extravagance with your ice cream? This old-school ice cream parlor serves sky-high sundaes and over-the-top treats including the Snow Royal Special, a vanilla ice cream that was created in 1968 for the then Emperor and Empress of Japan, and the “Dream Jumbo Parfait,” a four-tiered parfait that stacks fresh cream, cake, fruit, and soft cream into a massively, impressive dessert. The shop, which is run by Snow Brand Milk Products, one of Japan’s largest dairy companies, also has a takeaway counter and shop selling various Hokkaido delicacies and souvenirs.

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Missu House - Fushimi Branch

Although it’s slightly outside the main city center, a trip to Missu House is worth the trek. The shop tops their classic vanilla soft cream with homemade seasonal sauces, including a sweet-tart honeyberry (a regional specialty), strawberry, and chocolate. Missu also offers a large menu of gelatos (which you can buy by the pint) and various parfaits, so it really is an ice cream lover’s dream come true. And the second-floor terrace, with views overlooking the city and the greenery of nearby Mt. Moiwa park, is the ultimate place to enjoy the sweet treats.

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PHOTO: Kitakaro Sapporo Honkan
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Kitakaro Sapporo Honkan

Inside a regal 1920s building in downtown Sapporo, you’ll find this outpost of Kitakaro, a much-loved Japanese sweets brand, serving cakes, cookies, and, of course, soft cream. Along with the classic vanilla, the store also sells seasonal varieties of soft cream, including cantaloupe, a Hokkaido specialty. Originally a governmental library, the building was renovated by famed Japanese architect Tadao Ando, and its high ceilings and atrium make for an airy atmosphere to enjoy the cafe, library, or sweets shop.

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PHOTO: Queen's Soft Cream Cafe
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Queen's Soft Cream Cafe

It’s not uncommon to find some of the best dining destinations in Japan hidden inside nondescript food courts. Queen’s Soft Cream Cafe, on the top floor of a downtown shopping mall, is no exception. This tiny shop uses the traditional Japanese ticketing machine system to order; choose the type of cup/cone and toppings by pressing the buttons and inserting your money into the machine, then hand your ticket to the counter person. In exchange, you’ll be treated to one of the city’s most delicious soft creams: the dairy comes from Yamanaka Ranch; it’s smooth and milky and the toppings—Queen’s has a wide selection of homemade toppings—are made with local fresh fruit like Hokkaido melon, mango, or blueberry.