Blue Seal serves an eclectic mix of American and Okinawan ice cream flavors
By LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 26, 2017
Ice cream is super popular in Japan — maybe even more so than in the U.S. — and readily available no matter how remote the location or time of year.
I once spotted an ice cream vendor doing brisk business in a reconstructed ancient village at the foot of Mount Fuji — in November, no less.
Getting ice cream at Blue Seal, however, harkens back to a time when the chilly confection was much harder to come by.
Go to the Blue Seal shop on Route 16 near Yokota Air Base, and you’ll see signs proclaiming the company was “Born in America. Raised in Okinawa.” It was founded as Foremost Ltd. in 1948, and opened a factory to provide ice cream for U.S. military personnel occupying what is now Uruma, Okinawa.
In the postwar years, Okinawans had to ration food and could rarely get ahold of ice cream. Foremost ice cream, available only on the bases, was even harder to get, although factory workers could sometimes take some home.
Okinawans were quick to embrace the brand when it opened a public shop in 1963. It became a publicly traded, Okinawan-owned company in 1972.
Since then, the brand changed its name to Foremost Blue Seal and has grown to more than 80 locations across Japan. Walk into one, and it’s not hard to see why it was successful.
The interior of the Yokota location looks similar to any American ice cream shop: row after row of flavors behind a glass barrier. The colors are much brighter, however, and there’s an eclectic mix of familiar American and uniquely Okinawan flavors. Vanilla, chocolate and strawberry exist next to ube, an Okinawan purple yam, and beni-imo, a pink sweet potato.
The company’s website says the brand offers more than 30 varieties of ice cream.
I couldn’t resist trying an Omoro-Obake sherbet. The name didn’t offer any clues to how it would taste, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a frame of reference for that. My verdict? It tasted tropical to me, with hints of coconut and mango, but I can’t pin it down.
Blue Seal’s prices are reasonable; a single-scoop cone costs 350 yen (about $2.98) and a double is 650 yen (about $5.53). There are also seasonal flavors and holiday specials available, along with coffee and hot chocolate to wash it down.
I enjoyed eating Blue Seal ice cream, and never has a history lesson been this tasty.
Getting there: There are 80 Blue Seal shops throughout Japan. For the location reviewed, near Yokota Air Base, walk out the Fussa gate, cross the street and take a left. The shop is about 800 meters from the gate, close to Nicola’s pizza.
Hours: Open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily.
Prices: A single-scoop cone is 350 yen (about $2.98) and a double is 650 yen (about $5.53).