Smart & Cheap Japan Travel

What Do You Get When You Cross Some Beer with a Massage? | June 30, 2010

You get a very happy, tasty cow.

If you are a meat lover, Japanese Kobe beef is a must try. When it comes to these elite Kobe beef steaks, all barriers of communication, cultures, traditions, and ethnicity are erased. You may magically start speaking in Japanese. It’s that good. Kobe beef has become very accessible, and the chance to taste different varieties has become easy, especially when traveling in Kobe, the capital city of the Hyogo prefecture situated in the middle of Honshu.

Kobe beef steaks are special cuts of a certain breed of the Wa-gyu (meaning Japanese cows) cattle that are born and raised in Tajima, thus called Tajima-gyu. Cuts are strictly graded according to two parameters:

1. “Yield” – Number of edible cuts obtained from the cow. Graded A (highest) to C (lowest).
2. “Quality” – Cut texture, marbling, color, etc. Graded 5 (highest) to 1 (lowest).

The fat in the A5 Kobe beef is, therefore, so perfectly distributed that it melts already in your chopsticks. In order to reach such high standards of meat, the cows are all born, raised, and processed in the same farms and slaughter houses in Tajima, fed on a planned diet that includes beer, and massaged and brushed regularly with sake. The meat must be only of a bullock or virgin cow. All this guarantees the presence of the most nutrients, vitamins, minerals and proteins in the right quantity. As well as heavenly flavor that outmatches even a can of ice-cold coke after a 10 hour hike in the Sahara.

This specific, highly decorated breed of cattle was introduced to Japan in the second century. The farmers realized the popularity of the beef so they started to hire people to massage the cattle to improve the quality of the beef and made it a delicacy it is today. Over time, isolated breeding started which maintained good quality. Advanced breeding techniques were developed to give it a distinct taste. You are sure to recognize Kobe beef by its perfect marbling, magnificent flavor, and possessed tenderness of a baby’s cheeks.

All this makes it the most expensive meat in the whole world. You could end up paying up to $100 for a mere 100g in restaurants and up to $40 for self-preparation steak cuts (I’m sure you could go higher if you looked). Is it worth it? That’s for you to decide. Although, since prices vary greatly according to grading and type of cut, there are a myriad of options when it comes to choosing which Kobe beef steak you are going to slowly savor every bite of, while praying you won’t ever get to the last one.


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    Born in Tokyo. Lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for over a decade combined. Author of the book, "All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang for Your Yen" -

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