Matsumoto’s Shave Ice: Historical icon in the heart of Haleiwa

Written by: 
Geena Demaio

Sweet syrup saturates fresh shave ice while customers extend in a line outside the legendary Matsumoto’s Shave Ice in anticipation for their order. According to the Matsumoto’s website, over the past 67 years, Matsumoto’s has become a historical icon in the heart of Haleiwa.

Although some BYU-Hawaii freshmen may have tried shave ice prior to arrival in Oahu, students and alumni highly encourage people to visit Matsumoto’s for the historical and cultural experience of Hawaii.

“You should try it because it’s an iconic stop. Hawaii is really famous for it. You should just try it at least once,” recommended Shaina Auaea, a student from Wisconsin majoring in exercise sport science.

She continued, “Honestly, there’s always so many people there. Try it once just to say you ate there, and if you really love it then, yeah, go back.”

Waiting in line for the shave ice at Matsumoto’s can take up to 30 minutes, said Charity Liew, a senior studying psychology from South Korea.

Hailey Steinagel, a freshman from Florida studying history, explained, “The long line is what makes Matsumoto’s special from a tourist’s perspective. If you see a long line in front of a restaurant, people would think, ‘Oh that’s the place we should go.’”

Kayne Palmer, a sophomore from Australia studying HTM, added, “As a tour guide, we are always around touristy things, and shave ice is very touristy.”

Steinagel noted, “I’ve been there twice, and I’m actually going with my friends on Saturday. It’s my favorite place here.”

Reflecting on the uniqueness of Matsumoto’s, Auaea remarked, “There’s a difference in the quality of shave ice. Some shave ice stores don’t shave it enough, so it’s too crunchy. You shouldn’t be crunching on anything. You shouldn’t be chewing little ice pebbles.”

The shave ice at Matsumoto’s is produced with a Fujimarca machine that changes the texture of the ice.

Auaea added, “Good shave ice should just melt in your mouth automatically. It should be finely chopped. For real, some shave ice is just ice. It might as well be Kool-Aid with ice. It’s too thick!

She laughed and said, “I don’t like it when it’s really icy because all the juice sinks to the bottom.”

Cultural Toppings

Add some fun to your shave ice with azuki beans, Japanese red beans cooked with sugar and water, according to Matsumoto’s website.

Hyoju Jeong, a junior majoring in social work from South Korea, said, “I like shave ice,

but it depends on the ingredients. For example, in Korea, we eat ice cold red bean shaved ice.”

Jeong said there are many forms of sweeteners, but the red bean is the best and it can even be combined with cream for a richer taste. Erika Hendrawn, a junior studying HTM from Indonesia, said, “There is also red bean paste. The red bean is not sour at all, just sweet.”

Jeong said, “We also put mochi, and on the top, we put chocolate syrup or strawberry syrup. I like the typical ingredients from Korea. We also put the ice cream on top of the shave ice then add the topping.”

Sweetened condensed milk is another popular topping, Steinagel said. “I always try something different, but I always get condensed milk on top. It tastes really good and adds more sugar, which is what I want.”

Auaea said she likes the thickness and sweetness of the condensed milk and believes it complements the shave ice as a creamer. “Condensed milk is very strong. It’s like drinking honey.”


In addition to the signature combinations, 37 flavors are available at Matsumoto’s.

Steinagel said, “They’ve got orange, tiger’s blood, and they have specialty flavors where they mix it up.”

Liew said she likes anything fruity and in particular, she enjoys the specialty flavor.

A fan of specialty creations, Steinagel said, “One of them is called Matsumoto’s. It includes their special or favorite flavors.”  The Matsumoto’s combination is lemon, pineapple, and coconut syrup.

Hendrawn shared, “My favorite flavors are pineapple and coconut.”

Voicing her preferences, Jeong said shave ice should always have some kind of fruit such as cocktail or tropical fruit like mango, pineapple, or cherry.

Auaea said tropical flavors like guava and lilikoi are unique to Hawaii. Her choices are citrus fruits.

Palmer said he likes melon and his favorites are lychee and watermelon.


Date Published: 
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Last Edited: 
Thursday, September 6, 2018