Japan is a country that was relatively late when it comes to eating beef, due to Buddhist tradition which forbade eating meat. However, during the Meiji era the country adopted a more Western-style diet as it aimed to modernize. Today, Japan is one of the best places to enjoy an excellent steak thanks to the generations of artisan cattle farmers who have carefully raised regional varieties of Japanese domestic cattle, known as “wagyu”.
Kobe, located on Osaka Bay in western Japan, is a port city best known for its eponymous local brand of beef. Japanese beef, or wagyu, includes several breeds of cattle that have been domesticated from wild oxen, with the various regions of Japan specializing in their own local wagyu brands. Kobe beef, in particular, is world famous for its intense marbling. Rich and sweet without being greasy, the meat possesses a unique tenderness and melting texture that is second to none.
Hida beef is a highly esteemed brand of kuroge wagyu beef from the Gifu area in central Japan. Black-haired Japanese cattle are raised to produce beef of the topmost quality, meeting stringent industry standards for marbling, color, texture, and aroma. Compared to other kuroge wagyu brands, Hida beef has thinner muscle fibers; furthermore, its exquisite marbling appears not only on steaks but also on flank, shoulder, and round cuts. This results in a light and tender beef that, lacking the heaviness of many other meats, possesses instead a smooth and sweet flavor. A fine marble coating also protects the meat when stewing, resulting in only the juiciest and most tender cuts.
From top-notch farms to artisanal kitchens and into the waiting mouths of hungry patrons, Japan’s elite offering—premium kuroge wagyu Japanese beef—is fast taking its well-deserved place among Western high-end beef standards such as filet mignon and veal. While internationally recognized Kobe beef is one of the most highly regarded, flavorful and least easy to obtain outside of Japan, it is by no means the only kind Japan has to offer. Read on to discover the world of kuroge wagyu beef, and learn why these succulent cuts should be at the top of your list when deciding where to dine in Japan.