Have you ever heard of the ice cream that's so hard you can eat it on the Shinkansen? Not only is it impressively firm, but it's also incredibly delicious. It's a flavor that brings back memories of my childhood, eating it with my mother on the Shinkansen during our trips back home.
This ice cream was born when Takayoshi Hibi, the founder of Sujahta Meiraku and then-president, personally took charge to create a special product with a sense of luxury suitable for sale on the Shinkansen. He developed high-quality vanilla ice cream. Since its debut in 1991, it has been sold under the official name "Sujahta Ice Cream." However, in recent years, it has gained popularity with the nickname "シンカンセンスゴイカタイアイス" (Shinkansen's Incredibly Hard Ice Cream), spread through social media and such. This nickname has even become the official sales name.
Ice cream is categorized into three types based on the amount of dairy components: "ice cream," "ice milk," and "lacto ice." Shinkansen's Incredibly Hard Ice Cream falls into the category of "ice cream," with the highest content of milk solids. Moreover, the vanilla in this ice cream has an incredibly high fat content of 15.5%, exceeding the definition of ice cream with over 15% milk solids and over 8% milkfat. This meticulous attention to detail achieves a smooth and rich flavor.
One of its notable features is its "hardness." The secret behind this firmness lies in significantly reducing the air content in the ice cream, thereby increasing its density. Once the ice cream melts, it won't return to its original smoothness and flavor, even after re-freezing. To deliver high-quality ice cream that retains its taste without access to freezing facilities on the Shinkansen, dry ice at -79 degrees is used, and the ice cream is stored at a temperature lower than the conventional freezer at around -18 degrees. This approach creates a hard, dense, and substantial taste.
This summer, while on a Shinkansen for a homecoming trip, I found myself craving this ice cream and bought it from the onboard sales after many years. Flavors like "zunda" and "Belgian chocolate" were available, but I still chose "vanilla," a classic favorite. The navy and gold packaging exudes a sense of luxury and has remained unchanged for years, evoking nostalgia. I'm a fan of hard ice cream and usually prefer to eat it when it's rock-solid. With excitement, I immediately opened the lid of the ice cream handed to me and plunged in the spoon. However, the spoon barely made a dent—it didn't pierce through. The ice cream was even harder than I remembered, to the point that I was wide-eyed in surprise on the Shinkansen. Eventually, amused by its extraordinary hardness, I left the ice cream untouched for a few minutes. When I tried piercing it with the spoon again, it went in smoothly, but it seemed that I had waited a bit too long; it had become softer than my preferred level of firmness. Gathering my resolve, I took a bite. The flavor was intensely milky and dense. This fine texture was truly unique, and I thought to myself, "It's still delicious." As I enjoyed the treat, I gazed at the view outside the window.
In early August 2023, the news of the discontinuation of onboard wagon sales on the Tokaido Shinkansen caught my attention unexpectedly. This news seems to have sparked my memory of the existence of this ice cream after a long time. Starting from November 1, 2023, onboard sales on the Tokaido Shinkansen will continue only in the Green Car through mobile orders, but the option to buy from that onboard wagon will no longer be available. It's a bit saddening to think that this convenience will be lost. While Shinkansen's Incredibly Hard Ice Cream can still be purchased from vending machines and online shops, plans are in place to expand the availability of vending machines to more stations.
During my elementary school days, being taken by my mother on a ride and buying this ice cream from the onboard sales was a highlight of traveling on the Shinkansen. Lastly, I'm glad that I had the chance to buy and enjoy this ice cream during my trip back home. While Shinkansen's Incredibly Hard Ice Cream won't disappear, let's continue to savor it on Shinkansen rides and at home.
JR Tokai Passengers Shinkansen's Incredibly Hard Ice Cream