Hokkaido Parfaits: Preventing Hangovers and Saving Sapporo

JAPANKURU
4 min readAug 22, 2023

The parfait might have originated across Europe and the United States, but in recent decades Japan has taken this classic treat and its simple layers to the next level. Order a parfait in Japan, and you might not recognize the sweet surprise that appears before you. You’ll probably get layers of fresh fruit and crunchy cereal, and you might even find some yogurt in there somewhere, but the tall glass that arrives at your table is also likely to be filled to the brim with additions like ice cream, huge hunks of cake, cubes of jelly, layers of jam, Japanese red bean paste, mochi, or whatever else the chef thought sounded good. It’s no wonder June 28th is Parfait Day in Japan — they have a lot to celebrate.

And so, in this country of decadent parfaits, perhaps it should come as no surprise to find that Hokkaido’s capital city of Sapporo has now established the humble parfait as a necessary part of local drinking culture.

Whether it’s a greasy burger or a meaty kebab, people around the world reach for different guilty pleasures after a long night of drinking. For most of Japan, the classic method of ending a good night out is by downing (and trying not to drown in) a whole bowl of ramen from a local restaurant, which provides all the salt and grease a night of heavy alcohol intake might call for. In Japan’s northern reaches, however, drinking culture has evolved a little bit differently for residents of Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. In the city of Sapporo, a night of alcoholic indulgence might lead to a sweetly sinful finale — what they call a “shime parfait” (締めパフェ, literally “ending parfait”).

Hokkaido has a long history of doing things differently from the rest of Japan, having only been fully and officially incorporated into Japan in the mid-19th century, but the “shime parfait” is an even more recent development. Parfaits have been popular in Japan for decades, but Sapporo’s shime parfait culture only really took hold around the year 2015! It hasn’t taken a lot to establish this new Hokkaido tradition, however, and the Sapporo Parfait Promotion Committee is already actively supporting and promoting Sapporo’s shime parfait culture.

More than 20 shops around Sapporo participate as active members of the Sapporo Parfait Promotion Committee, as the organization works to spread shime parfait culture throughout Sapporo and beyond. The organization is surprisingly determined, showing up at events around Japan to get people far from Sapporo to join in on the shime parfait fun. All that sugar might not really work any better than a bowl of ramen when it comes to preventing a hangover, but it does feel a lot more decadent! And with new shops joining all the time, the Sapporo Parfait Promotion Committee is growing, helping them reach their goals of sharing the joy of sweet treats with all dessert lovers (regardless of gender, age, or even location), and growing the shime parfait community all across Japan by supporting the development of new parfaits featuring seasonal fruit and unique toppings.

Shime parfait culture has become a positive force in Sapporo in recent years, spurring shime parfait meet-ups and new food tours focused exclusively on Hokkaido parfaits. Both locals and foreign tourists enjoy new opportunities to explore some of Sapporo’s most delicious little local shops and restaurants, shining a light on the kinds of businesses that could always use some extra support.

So whether you’re a committed parfait lover, or just hoping to see more of Japan, make sure Sapporo makes it onto your next travel itinerary. Spend a night out on the town in Sapporo, drinking in Susukino or enjoying the night air in Odori Park, then check Sapporo Parfait Promotion Committee’s map to end the night with the city’s best shime parfaits!

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