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The first documented “shaved ice” dessert dates back to imperial Japan – not Hawaii! The Roman Emperor Nero sent slaves to collect snow from the nearby mountains, then flavored it with the juice of fresh fruit. This dessert was only served to royalty, as it was made of fresh ice during the coldest winters in Japan. This made it very rare to serve, therefore a special dessert that was only served to the riches instead of the ordinary people of Japan.

 

Shaved ice made its debut to Hawaii when the Japanese began immigrating in the 1940s. Japanese immigrants opened small stores that sold shave ice, and then it became sold regularly in many Japanese owned mom-and-pop stores. One of the most famous shave ice shops on island is Matsumoto Shave Ice store, which has been serving the North Shore since 1951! There are over 40 different flavors of syrup, with optional add-ins like ice cream, mocha balls, azuki beans and other toppings. The store founders are Mamoru and Helen Mastumoto, who were born in Hawaii but whose roots are back in Hiroshima, Japan.

A little background of their story – once she was born and returned back to Japan, Mamoru’s family struggled to make money. Mamoru and his older brother boarded a ship back to Hawaii to find jobs to supplement the family’s income. His brother fell ill, but Mamoru continued to labor in Hawaii then eventually became a salesman. He then met his wife, Helen, who both dreamed of opening their own business to make money to buy a home for Mamoru’s family back in Japan.

They were then given the opportunity to open their own grocery store, “M. Mastumoto Store Inc.” in the North Shore/Haleiwa area, where they sold simple grocery items and had a small sewing section of the store. Later on, both Mamoru and Helen decided to start selling shave ice to share their culture with the Hawaiian community. As the business grew and more customers kept coming back, the Mastumoto’s were so overwhelmed with how well their business was doing that they needed extra help. They hired their friends, Stanley and Noriko, who reconstructed the grocery business to a shaved ice business with a logo, merchandise, marketing and a new name: “Mastumoto’s Shaved Ice.”

On average, the store makes over one thousand shave ice treats per day, and people from all over the world visit the store to try the famous shaved ice! From a college student’s perspective, it’s cheap for what you get. It is $3.00 for a small (they’re not even small) and $3.50 for a large (way too much – good for two people)!

Read more about the history here: http://matsumotoshaveice.com/about/ and promise me you’ll visit it one day!

Guam | Hawaii Pacific University
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