Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Wagyu in Japan 2016 - Japanese Beef Feast beyond Kobe Beef in Kobe

In October 2016, I traveled to Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu using the 14-day Japan Rail JR pass. With extensive research and a sense of spontaneity, my friends/cousin and I were able to enjoy some of the best Wagyu during our trip. I am dedicating this blog post to the amazing less well-known name brand regional Wagyu experiences I had during my Shinkansen bullet train trip in 2016.
Luxurious Akita Yuri/Ugo Wagyu Yakiniku Japanese beef BBQ plate

- To read about my 2016 Japan trip itinerary, visit: Project Shinkansen 2016 - All Over Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu Japan Rail JR Pass Itinerary
- To read about my Kobe Beef in Kobe 2016 Experience, visit: Kobe Beef in Kobe 2016
- To read about my previous Wagyu Experiences and list of best Wagyu and Kobe Beef restaurants in Tokyo, visit: Wagyu Japanese Beef

In summary, all the Wagyu 和牛 beef cuisine were delicious. Some were more tender and some had more robust beef flavor. Because not all Wagyu are defined by the prestigious A5 ranking and not all portion of Wagyu have the texture of melting in the mouth, I recommend keeping an open mind for the expectations of your first Wagyu/Kobe Beef experience.

There is no reasonable price for Japanese Wagyu or Kobe Beef, and it is unhealthy to consume too much beef that is high in marbled fat, I recommend smart and budget travelers to spend their money on high quality yet small quantity of Wagyu beef while traveling in Japan.

you can review my 2016 itinerary by visiting "Project Shinkansen 2016 - All Over Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu Japan Rail JR Pass Itinerary"

Yuri/Ugo 由利牛/羽後牛 Wagyu Beef in Northeast Akita 秋田 area
Akita Yuri/Ugo Wagyu Fillet Mignon cut melts in your mouth
This place was one of the best Yakiniku BBQ restaurants in Akita and it was conveniently located near JR Akita station. The restaurant is known for their prestigious Yuri/Ugo Wagyu beef. Yuri/Ugo beef is rare brand of Wagyu beef farm raised exclusively in the Northeast/Akita area. The Yakiniku barbecue restaurant was within 5 minutes from our hotel in Akita by foot. The decor of the restaurant resembles an upscale Izakaya restaurant in Japan. With my prior research based on the beautiful photos on their menu, I ordered the assorted meat combo of the day after our waiter confirms that there is no intestine/organ meat on the plate.
Nice decor at Akita Gyutei Yakiniku BBQ restaurant
Different portions had a slight different texture and sweetness to it, some were more oily (juicier) than others. The total bill was about 10000 yen for two.
Melt in your mouth texture of Akita Yuri/Ugo Wagyu beef

Kanazawa Meat 金澤ミート Wagyu Hamburger Steak
Japanese Wagyu hamburger steak on sizzling plate at Kanazawa Meat restaurant
Japanese hamburger steak typically consists of a patty of mixed ground beef and pork with chopped onion and spice, topped with special sauce. Right after I arrived in Kanazawa and checked into my hotel, the hotel staff recommended us to get our dinner near JR Kanazawa station. We visited a Wagyu Hamburger steak specialty restaurant named "Kanazawa Meat" and ordered their house special and curry Wagyu meal sets. 
Kazanawa Meat restaurant was conveniently located near JR Kanazawa station
Wagyu fat has a distinct aroma that is very well showcased by being served in hamburger steak style. The dish was about 1500 yen per person.
Can't read Japanese? No problem! Well written menu in English at Kanzawa Meat Japanese hamburger steak restaurant

Noto 能登牛 Wagyu Beef Nigiri Sushi in Kanazawa
Melt in your mouth Noto Wagyu beef Nigiri sushi at Omicho morning market in Kanazawa
This Noto Wagyu beef Nigiri Sushi was a pleasant surprise while I was visiting the Omicho 近江町 morning market in Kanawawa. I had seafood Sushi in mind when I visited the Kaiten revolving Sushi bar restaurant, but I could not resist from ordering their Noto Wagyu Nigiri Sushi on the menu. Noto penisula is an area near Kanazawa, Noto Wagyu cattle grading has to be higher than B3/A3 ranking.
Revolving Sushi bar at Kanazawa Omicho morning market was full of amazing ingredients.
Slightly grilled or blow torched to perfection, Noto Wagyu Nigiri Sushi truly melted in my mouth.
Amazing hole in the wall restaurant was hidden in Kanzazawa Omicho morning market

Saga 佐賀牛 Wagyu beef near Sasebo 佐世保 area in Kyushu 九州
Perfectly marbled tender Saga Wagyu beef in Kyushu Sasebo area
Visiting the Saga Wagyu Yakiniku barbecue restaurant was a spontaneous decision. After having the famous Sasebo burger near JR Sasebo station in Kyushu, my cousin and I decided not to pass on the opportunity of trying the restaurant next door that serves the famous Kyushu meat, Saga Wagyu beef.
Sagaya Saga Wagyu beef Yakiniku BBQ restaurant was near JR Sasebo station in Kyushu
The beef was tender and juicy like every other Wagyu. I was surprised that the lean cuts of the Saga beef was equally tender as its fattier marbled counterpart.
Saga Wagyu beef served in Sukiyaki style dipped in raw egg, even the lean cuts were very tender
The price was relative reasonable for the quality of the Wagyu beef or was it simply because we did not ordered that much? The final bill was about 4000 yen for two of us.
Nice grill mark on the precious Saga beef in Kyushu Sasebo

Bungo 豊後牛 Wagyu Beef in Yufuin 湯布院 Kyushu 九州
Bungo Wagyu beef bowl at Yufumabushi Shin restaurant in Yufuin near Kyushu Hakata
One of the day trips I made while staying in Kyushu Hakata/Fukuoka was to the famous Yufuin Onsen hot spring village town. With some online research, I visited one of local's favorite restaurants named Yufumabushi Shin 由布まぶし 心. Bungo Wagyu beef is another exclusive type of Wagyu that is raised and usually sold only in Kyushu. 
Classy restaurant in Kyushu Yufuin serves amazing Bungo Wagyu beef cuisine
There were different ways of enjoying Bungo Wagyu at this restaurant, one of the ways was eating it with broth. (Ochazuke お茶漬け style) Simply pour some special soup/tea into the bowl of beef and rice and top it off with some scallion and Wasabi. The bill was about 3000 yen per person.
Traditional way of enjoying Bungo Wagyu beef bowl is to pour tea/soup over it, Ochazuke style

Osaka Tsuruhashi 大阪鶴橋 Korean-town コリアンタウン A5 Wagyu Beef Yakiniku (generic beef/name brand)
Nicely marbled A5 grade Wagyu Japanese beef at a restaurantin Osaka Tsuruhashi area
Tsuruhashi area in Osaka is famous for their authentic Korean cuisine such as Korean style barbecue. While there is strong influence of Korean culture, the beef served in this area is usually of high grade Japanese Wagyu. 
All streets in Osaka Tsuruhashi area smell like Yakiniku restaurants
The streets in Tsuruhashi area in Osaka were lined with different Yakiniku barbecue restaurants. It was hard to choose between many restaurants, but my friends and I finally settled for a franchise restaurant that advertises for their exclusive A5 Wagyu beef menu at the storefront.
Many salary-men visit Osaka Tsuruhashi area for dinner after work before heading home
After a night of A5 grade Wagyu beef feast, each of us paid about 5000 yen for dinner. I felt it was of great value because every piece of Wagyu beef was ranked at A5.
The restaurant serves high value A5 grade Wagyu beef to be cooked Yakiniku BBQ style

Hida 飛騨牛 Wagyu Beef in Gero Onsen 下呂温泉
Robust beef flavor of Hida beef grilled in Miso paste in Gero Onsen village town.
While I was staying at a hotel in Osaka, I took a day trip to Gero Onsen village town near Nagoya. The area is known for the Hida beef cuisine because of the proximity to the Hida mountains. Spontaneity took me to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant recommended by the tourism office staff. They served the grilled Hida beef on sizzling plate in special Miso paste.
Authentic looking storefront of Hida Wagyu beef restauran in Gero. Yamabiko
Robust beef flavor in harmony with special Miso paste was delicious. The beef was slightly less tender than I expected for Japanese Wagyu, but large pieces of Hida beef was still easy to chew without knife and fork.
Family operated hole in the wall Hida Wagyu beef restaurant in Gero Onsen village town

Supermarket and Butcher Shop 精肉店 Wagyu Beef
Precious Kobe Beef in Kobe butcher shop. I prefer my Kobe Beef cooked by professionals
Throughout my two-week trip in Japan, I paid extra attention to high quality Wagyu beef in supermarkets and butcher shops. My after thought is that I would much prefer to enjoy my high quality Wagyu beef cuisine at restaurants where it can be properly prepared or cooked to perfection by experienced staff or skillful chef.
High quality Wagyu beef was everywhere in Japan
While real exported Wagyu beef usually have outrageous price outside of Japan, prices for high quality and well marbled Wagyu beef in Japan is relatively reasonable at local markets such as Don Quijote superstore.
Discounted high quality Wagyu beef at Don Quijote superstore in Osaka
High quality beef were sold everywhere. Locally raised Kuroge 黒毛 Wagyu beef were sold at supermarkets in many small towns in Japan.
High quality Wagyu beef and Kurobuta pork was sold at supermarkets in Sakurajima in Kyushu

INFORMATION (Tripadvisor page or related page)
*Akita Gyugentei
2-6-44 Nakadori | 2F, Akita 010-0001, Akita Prefecture
TEL: +81 18-893-3929
〒010-0001 秋田県秋田市中通 2-6-442F

*Kanazawa Meat
3-1 Horikawa Shimmachi | Kanazawa Forus 6F, Kanazawa 920-0849, Ishikawa Prefecture
TEL: +81 76-265-3517
*金澤ミート (Japanese language official homepage)
〒920-0849 堀川新町3-1金沢フォーラス 6F

*Omicho Fish Market Kanazawa
Kamiomicho, Kanazawa 920-0905, Ishikawa Prefecture
TEL: +81 76-231-1462
〒920-0905 上近江町

*Sagaya Saga Wagyu beef Yakiniku restaurant in Sasebo
2-1 Shinminatomachi Sasebo Nagasaki
TEL: +81 956-59-5529
*佐が家 させぼ五番街店 (Japanese language official page)
〒857-0855 長崎県佐世保市新港町3-1-610701

*Yufumabushi Shin Ekimae Bungo Wagyu beef restaurant
5-3 Yufuincho Kawakita | 2F, Yufu 879-5114, Oita Prefecture
TEL: +81 977-84-5825
*由布まぶし 心 駅前支店
〒879-5114 湯布院町川北5-3, 2F

*Osaka Tsuruhashi Korean Town and Yakiniku Barbecue restaurant street
1-chome Tsuruhashi, Ikunoku, Osaka 544-0031, Osaka Prefecture
TEL: +81 6-4259-1126
*大阪 コリアンタウン
〒544-0031 生野区鶴橋1丁目から2丁目

*Yamabiko Hida beef restaurant in Gero
1088 Mori, Gero, Gifu Prefecture
TEL: +81 576-25-2883
1088-2 岐阜県下呂市森

*MEGA Don Quijote
3-4-36 Ebisuhigashi Naniwa-ku Osaka, 556-0002
TEL: +81 06-6630-9511
*MEGA ドン・キホーテ 新世界店 (Japanese language official page)
〒556-0002 大阪府大阪市浪速区恵美須東3-4-36

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