Sake Gumi
My third blog entry on my trip to Ishigaki Island in Okinawa is about beef. Since moving to Japan, I realize just how beef-obsessed the Japanese are. Yakiniku is huge, guaranteeing for really stinky salarymen on packed trains every Friday night. Luckily on Ishigaki Island, there are no salarymen.

Ishigaki-gyu (cow) is probably what Ishigaki is most famous for all over Japan. Wa-gyu (Japanese cow) is the general term for Japanese beef. Under the wa-gyu umbrella is what most people know and recognize as - Kobe beef and Matsusaka beef. Japanese beef is characterized by marbleized fat within the meat. Since, the fat is evenly distributed across the lean flesh part of the meat, good wa-gyu literally melts in your mouth. There is very little tugging and pulling with utensils or with teeth. When you bite into it, it falls apart easily and there are seldom blubbery, gummy, fatty corners to deal with.

The naming of different wa-gyu consists of "Place"-gyu. Hence, Kobe-gyu made from cows raised in Kobe, Matsusaka-gyu made from cows raised in Matsusaka and Ishigaki-gyu made from... you get the picture. However, here's what I didn't know, the original wa-gyu (cows) are from Ishigaki. I guess you can say that the Adam and Eve of wa-gyu are Ishigaki-ans. From Ishigaki, cows were exported all over Japan - and so ensued the wa-gyu sprawl.

These days, if I were to eat Ishigaki-gyu in Tokyo or anywhere outside of Ishigaki Island, it would have had to have been frozen once. Therefore, unless one physically visits Ishigaki, he will never taste original wa-gyu in its freshest form.

It was a huge honor to be able to indulge in Ishigaki-gyu. I felt blessed, knowing that most Japanese had never tasted the O.G. (Original Gangster, Original Gyu). But, also because I am not a huge beef connoisseur I felt like I was a bit undeserving.

But let me tell you, I was converted. I wanted to sing Xtreme's "More than Words" to all the Ishigaki cows after my first bite of Japan's O.G. wa-gyu. The site of my beef connoisseur awakening was Kin-Jyo.

The store opened at 17:00 for dinner. We were there at 17:30, even still, greeted by a line.

Hot damn! Grill-it-yourself.

Worried that we ordered too much for two, we anxiously awaited our steak, a plate of karubi and beef sashimi plus appetizers. We proved 40 minutes later that we had nothing to worry about. It helped that the food was served 10 minutes after we ordered, but 40 minutes was something of a record for me regarding beef consumption. Everything was gone.

Steak, seasoned with salt and pepper. Check out the marbleization.

Karubi. In dreams and in Ishigaki.

Ishigaki-gyu sashimi.

You be grillin'.

There was something about the beef that was so easy to eat. There was no oily, meaty aftertaste and the flesh took to the seasoning so well. Just a simple sprinkle of salt and pepper to the steak before it hit the grill was enough. And dunking the karubi into the tare was heaven. Slapping the tare covered karubi over a bed of white rice, I was sure that I found one of life's greatest pleasures. With a dab of ginger and a little bit of soy sauce, the beef sashimi had body and depth without any in-your-face meatiness. The beef sashimi was definitely about the texture and the way the meat revealed its subtle aromas as it was chewed and swallowed.

So, in addition to the fruit of Ishigaki Island, I have one more huge reason to go back there - the mother of all wa-gyu: Ishigaki Gyu.

Kin-jyo (Wagyu Yakiniku Senmonten)
Okinawaken, Ishigaki-shi
Misakimachi, 11-1
Lunch 11:30-15:00, Dinner 17:00-24:00
(Closed Tuesdays)

*Read all of Yoko's Ishigaki Travels
Dream Shop TOMORU
Fruit Fetish
The Largest Living Arthropod in the World


  • WHOA, i had no idea about any of this- thanks so much Yoko for sharing all this info!

    i recently just learned that the Kobe beef served in the US is not REALLY the OG Kobe beef, but is just American beef in the Kobe STYLE. huh. that’s such a scam!

    i had heard that the only restaurant in the country that serves REAL Kobe beef is a Stephen Starr establishment in Philly. now that i’m looking it up though, it seems like they have allowed the real Kobe beef back into the country and many places serve it. can anyone elaborate?

    i love your analogy of Ishigaki being the Adam and Eve for cows.

    god said let there be light… upon Ishigaki…gyu!!!

    kayoko on

  • also great pic of Washi-san.

    kayoko on

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