Let's be clear. It's not "shaved" ice. It's "shave" ice. And, yes, it is somewhat like what you might call a snow cone—that is, ice topped with a sugary syrup. Except better. The key is the ice. "The ice?" you ask. "Isn't all ice the same?" Not so. In this case, the finer, the better.
Like many things now intricately linked with Hawai'i, the popular treat was introduced to Hawaii by Japanese immigrants during the early sugar plantation era. In Japan, the frozen confection, called Kakigori, dates back to a time known as the Heian period, running from 794 to 1185 A.D. During that time, ice was carried down from the mountains in the winter, stored in caves and considered quite a delicacy.
Shave ice as we know it is believed to have been invented in Yokohana, Japan, in 1869. (Yes, 1869.) By the 1920s, shave ice was a fixture in stores throughout Japan. It only made sense, then, that as Japanese moved to Hawai'i and opened stores, they sold shave ice, as well. The frozen concoction isn't isolated to Japan and Hawaii, as many of you may know. It's found around the world. What makes Hawai'i's particularly nice, we think, is its super-fine, fluffy texture and tasty tropical flavors.
On the west side of Kaua'i, JoJo's Shave Ice always seems to pack in the people. Earlier this week, I drove by and people lined the front of the shop and both sides. JoJo's is known as Kaua'i's best shave ice stand. If you want to visit, head to the dry, dusty, cowboy town of Waimea.