Matsumoto’s Shave Ice is Serving Up a New Twist on an Island Classic

By Andy Beth Miller


Take any heavenly Hawaii day and drive down the main thoroughfare of Haleiwa town, and you will most assuredly see a loooooooong line of people, the excited and anxious looks on their faces revealing their ravenous desires for something delicious—cravings that only one thing can quel—a heaping bowl-full of shave ice. But not just any shave ice, these folks are staking out the cool selections at Matsumoto’s Shave Ice.


Photo courtesy of Sandi Sakaguchi.

A Hawaii landmark, now famous for its delicious niche of novelty shave ice, Matsumoto’s Shave Ice has been a steadfast staple of Haleiwa town for 64 years. Proud to be a locally owned, family-run business, the shave ice shoppe has a rich history, deeply rooted in its belief in family values, community spirit and serving the highest quality shave ice.

The company’s patriarch is Mamoru Matsumoto, who came to Hawaii aboard a ship from Hiroshima-ken in order to make a life for himself. Matsumoto worked hard, laboring on sugar plantations, the railroad and even in retail, all while attending night school to conquer English and Math. After marrying Helen Momoyo Ogi, the couple worked diligently (Helen was a seamstress), sharing the dream of one day opening their own business.


Left: Helen Momoyo (Ogi) Mastumoto and Mamoru Matsumoto. Right: Noriko and Stanley Matsumoto. Photos courtesy of Matsumoto Shave Ice.

The hard work and dedication paid off, and the M. Matsumoto Store Inc. finally came to fruition, tucked on the main strip of Kamehameha Highway in sweet and sleepy Haleiwa town on Oahu’s North Shore. Having begun as a grocery store, the couple soon saw their ideal locale as perfect for serving shave ice, and added a stand in the store.

It was as if someone had lit a match in a truckload of dynamite, and business exploded—doors opening each day to an onslaught of curious customers eager to have their first experience with this newest sensation of shave ice (or “snow cones” as some called it).

Photo courtesy of Star-Advertiser archives.

Crowds gathered outside for a refreshing shave ice in 1981 as they still do today. Photo courtesy of Star-Advertiser archives.

Business continued to boom, and now, under the husband-and-wife team of Stanley (Mamoru Matsumoto’s son) and Noriko Matsumoto, the family establishment still flourishes, and is excited to enter a new chapter in an already sweet success story.

Having successfully converted the groceries that accompany its popular shave ice to T-shirts, souvenirs, and snacks, Matsumoto’s Shave Ice is rolling out yet another new and exciting addition: edible bowls!


Edible bowl. Photo courtesy of Matsumoto Shave Ice.

“I remembered when I was young in Japan, and having shave ice—they had these bowls you could eat after you were done!” excitedly recalls Noriko Matsumoto.

According to Noriko, these bowls (which are loosely comparable to the Japanese rice cracker, senbei) are wildly popular in Japan, where the shave ice store has them shipped in from directly. Noriko wanted to use that memory of her childhood, but “adapt that, as I remember the older one [bowl] became soft…so we wanted to make it better….even testing them, with textures, different flavors, everything,” she explains.

The outcome of that experimentation and improvement is an absolute win. Curious fans can have their chance at a taste-testing soon with the store’s Ichiban Special, where they can choose any flavor shave ice, ice cream and azuki beans, condensed milk (if desired) AND mochi—all served in one of the new, edible bowls.


Edible bowl filled with strawberry shave ice and all toppings – ice cream, azuki bean, condensed milk and mochi balls. Photo courtesy of Matsumoto Shave Ice.

And if the delicious taste isn’t enough to sway you (believe us, though, it is!), Noriko also points out that, “It helps with the waste—always we are wanting to be as eco-friendly as possible.”

So after spending a sun-dappled day on Oahu’s North Shore, nothing sounds better than bee bopping over to Matsumoto’s Shave Ice to sample its new Ichiban Special in an earth-friendly edible bowl.

See also: Matsumoto’s Shave Ice – with map

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