Blue Seal: Born in the U.S., raised in Okinawa

Blue Seal: Born in the U.S., raised in Okinawa

You want chura-imo or ube in that sundae? Blue Seal's strange hybrid of sock hop-era American ice cream and the unique vegetation of Okinawa has finally come to Tokyo
Blue Seal
The Shibuya location of Blue Seal Cafe makes a good stop after shopping next door at Tokyu Hands.

Blue Seal prides itself on making ice cream the good ol' American way: creamy and unapologetically colorful. Conceived stateside then brought to Okinawa along with American soldiers in 1948, Blue Seal was initially available only on American military bases. In 1976, however, Blue Seal opened on the island proper.

Once locals became part of the equation, flavors and ingredients native to Okinawa were infused into the American ice cream. This resulted in some of Blue Seal's most popular flavors today: Beni-imo purple sweet potato and Goya bitter melon. It is a testament to Blue Seal's skill that the company is able to make these mundane vegetables into scrumptous treats.

For the less daring, an excellent Blue Seal original is Mangotango -- a swirly blend of mango and vanilla ice creams. The S.F. Choco Mint -- San Francisco? Science Fiction? -- is likewise a reliable standby.

Now, Blue Seal has made its biggest plunge by opening shops in Tokyo. These include the two-story Shibuya Blue Seal Café, which is always filled with overly energetic schoolgirls chatting furiously over their cones.

"We chose to open our first Kanto Blue Seal location in Shibuya because it was central to the city," says Satoshi Yokote of the New Business Development Department of the Dohtonbori Corporation, which houses the Kanto headquarters of Blue Seal.

Blue Seal was once one of Okinawa's secret attractions. But it's unlikely the Tokyo outlets will ever overshadow those in Naha. We're lucky to have some sugar cane scoops here in the big city, but there's still something about Blue Seal that makes it taste better in a tropical clime.

Sigma Building Five 1-3F, 12-12 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, tel. 03 5428 2428, 7am-12am