The History of Hawaiian Shave Ice dates back to the sugar plantation days of old Hawaii. Thousand’s of Japanese immigrants flocked to Hawaii to work on the plantations and with them they brought a frozen treat that is now known as shave ice.
The frozen confection that they introduced to the Hawaiian Islands was not a new concept. In Japan shave ice is called Kakigori and it dates back to the Heian period running from 794 to 1185 A.D. During that time the ice was brought down from the mountains in the winter and stored in a cave called ‘Himuro’ in Japanese and means ‘Ice room’. At that time ice was considered rare and shave ice was a luxury, a treat reserved for royalty only.
The modern form of shave ice we know and love today is believed to have been invented in the port town of Yokohama, Japan in 1869. Due to its popularity, by the 1920’s shave ice was a common attraction in stores throughout Japan.
In plantation times, the delicious frozen treat was only sold on Sundays, the only day of the week immigrants had off. With the decline of Hawaiian sugar’s popularity, these immigrants moved off the plantations and opened their own family grocery stores. There they sold household goods along with shave ice which proved to be a huge commercial success and continues to be to this day.
Shave ice exists all over the world today and is known by different names such as Gola Gunda in Pakistan, Juski in India, Ice Kachang in Malasia & Singapore where it is served with red beans and other fruits, Raspa, Raspado, or Raspadillo in Mexico and Peru (Raspar means “scrape” in Spanish) and of course the Snow Cone on the mainland.
Don’t let these names confuse you, when you come to Hawaii be sure to ask the one and only Shave Ice.
Written by Heather Stever