Here are My Top 5 Favorite Types of (Japanese) Wagyu Beef including “Kobe Beef”

Often I hear or see people talk about “Kobe beef,” and I think there are several big misconceptions that most people misinterpret about Japanese/Kobe beef.

Editor/co-written by: Greg Taniguchi. Updated 3/17/2022.

In Japan, the premium beef comes from wagyu (wa=Japanese gyu=cows) cows which are raised in different parts of Japan. There are a few different breeds of wagyu cows, but the two main ones are Kuroge wagyu (black cow) and Akaushi (red/brown cow). Japanese wagyu beef from the Kobe called Tajima-gyu from the Hyogo prefecture is only one type of multiple kinds (over 250+) of wagyu beef found all over Japan. Typically meat from any wagyu cow is characterized by the highly marbled (shimofuri) nature which is high in healthy fats. I have found that some of the wagyu cow breeds also produce delicious leaner beef (akami) that has a soft texture and less greasy.

Listed here are several different types of Japanese wagyu in Japan (they represent the regional variety of Japanese beef Japan has to offer).

Wagyu literally means “Japanese beef.”
Photo Description: Bihoro Wagyu, several thick slabs of wagyu, with three in the forefront are very well marbled (it almost looks pink). They sit atop a black stone looking plate with a small bed of greens.
Marbled thick slabs of Wagyu beef which will be tender as buttah.
Photo Description: Oishii Desu (logo) "top ranking blog post" along with the text "thank you everybody" for "Here are My Top 5 Favorite Types of Wagyu Beef including 'Kobe Beef'"

When I spend time in Japan, I’ve enjoyed going to many different cities or areas and trying the different kinds of wagyu beef because I enjoy eating beef. The taste of the different types of wagyu beef can vary and change making some of them unique to how or what region they were raised in. Wagyu beef can also be enjoyed in many ways such as yakiniku (grill it yourself), steaks, teppan, shabu-shabu, or even as croquettes/katsu-sando (sandwiches).

Kuroge Wagyu: The Pinnacle of Japanese Beef

“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.”

Some of my favorite types of wagyu beef have been listed in the order from my favorites on down.

Photo Description: a round red icon for the number one (in a san serif font).

1. Shiraoi Wagyu from Hokkaido (Kuroge)

Photo Description: Steak and beef cuts all demarcated on the plate, so that you know which cuts of wagyu you are about to eat. There are three cuts on the plate all of which are being accompanied by vegetables and what looks like potatoes.

This wagyu beef is rated very high and was served at the national 38th G8 summit. One of the farms which raises this cow is the Uemura farm in the town of Shiraoi. They raise their own Shiraoi wagyu cows, prepare, and serve their own beef at the farm restaurant. What I specifically liked about this specific cut of beef is that it was very light and easy to eat compared to other cuts of very fatty wagyu that can be very greasy. It had a balanced flavor which paired nicely with just salt, garlic, and pepper.

Additional images from Shiraoi wagyu from Hokkaido:

Photo Description: a round red icon for the number two (in a san serif font).

2. Himi Wagyu from Toyama (Kuroge)

Photo Description: several raw slices of wagyu are atop a black plate. Alog with the wagyu, thin slices of pork belly, sliced white onion, a large mushroom, kabocha, and a chili pepper are also included.

I was able to try this particular type of wagyu beef at the Himi gyu-ya. The shop is about a 20-minute walk from the Himi train station in the western part of Japan in Toyama. While this wagyu beef was more on the side of akami (leaner with more texture), the taste had a lot of depth and heartiness to it. I specifically enjoyed eating this beef with no additional seasoning or sauce than what was served with it. The Himi gyu-ya butcher shop has a yakiniku restaurant and also offers this beef as a takeaway item to prepare at home, and even sells a menchi katsu (fried minced beef cutlet) using their beef.

Additional images from Himi wagyu from Toyama:

Photo Description: a round red icon for the number three (in a san serif font).

3. Shinshu Wagyu from Nagano (Kuroge)

Photo Description: wow, this plate once again looks like a large round "stone plate" with several semi-thick slices of wagyu concentrically plated. Each slice is nicely marbled with thick slices of negi (scallions) and carrots.

Shinshu-gyu comes from the city of Matsumoto in the Nagano prefecture. The wagyu cows in Matsumoto are famous for eating apples as part of their primary diet. This diet gives the local wagyu in Nagano a moderate to higher fat content and a sweeter aftertaste. I find that this beef is more enjoyable with some of the local marinades that the yakiniku prepare the beef with.

Additional images of Shinshu wagyu from Nagano:

Photo Description: a round red icon for the number four (in a san serif font).

4. Noto Wagyu from Kanazawa (Kuroge)

Photo Description: three large prominent slices that look fairly thick exemplify shimofuri because they are well marbled from edge to edge. A sprinkling of what appears to be salt and pepper are atop all three slices.

Noto-gyu is locally famous for having very beautiful marbling (Shimofuri), bright appearance and soft texture. I was able to try the Noto beef with pairings such as salt and pepper, garlic, wasabi and lemon juice. The Wasabi and lemon juice seemed to pair well and accentuate the taste of the fattier beef.

Additional images from Noto wagyu in Kanazawa:

Photo Description: a round red icon for the number five (in a san serif font).

5. Tajima wagyu from Hyogo (Kuroge)

Photo Description: several slices of wagyu are atop a fresh green (most likely an herb). The cut is denoted in Japanese.

Kobe beef initially came from the Tajima cow raised in the Hyogo prefecture which Kobe is the capital city of. I feel like the Tajima-gyu is famous because it does a lot of things very well having good marbling, soft texture, and an overall well-balanced taste. Though in my mind this wagyu beef merely is in line with all the other good Japanese beef with being “special” in any way. From my experience, Tajima-gyu is still paired well with simple salt & pepper or wasabi. If the cut of beef is very fatty and marbled, some lemon juice can help round out the flavor and make it more palatable to eat versus being too greasy.

Additional images from Osaka Tajima Beef Restaurant:

Additional images from Niko no Tajima Restaurant:

Overall I have had the opportunity to experience eating a few different types of wagyu beef (10+) which I have personally tried while visiting Japan. However, even this number is tiny in comparison to the overall number of wagyu breeds in Japan. Each city and prefecture has different stringent standards of raising wagyu cows, and the taste and texture of the beef can vary as such which is why you should keep an open mind when trying different cuts of wagyu beef. Also, try not to focus on what is expensive or brand names because there are Japanese wagyu producers that just have not gotten a lot of exposure outside of Japan although give it time, and they will eventually have the same brand recognition that Kobe beef does. Also, if you have never had wagyu before, and you do come across real Kobe beef (lot of “Kobe style/like,” not the same), it’s an excellent place to start because there is a reason why Kobe Bryant’s parents named him after “Kobe beef”….Kobe beef out *microphone drop*

Pass on the A1 steak sauce

Common condiments to wagyu are:

  • Soy sauce (shoyu): Japanese soy sauces can vary greatly in taste, and there are a few that pair very nicely with beef.
  • Salt and pepper (shio-kosho): yup, globally it’s a favorite around the world, even in Japan.
  • Grated wasabi, radish (daikon), lemon, to garlic (ninniku): helps to balance the flavors without masking them.

For the full list of all the different ways Wagyu is prepared and eaten in Japan.

If You Are in the U.S./Los Angeles and You Want to Try Wagyu (Japanese Beef), Here Are Four Yakiniku Spots to Hit Up

That is if you do not want to fly to Japan, here are a few places we suggest in El Lay. If you are outside of Los Angeles, here are the ONLY places to try authentic Kobe Kobe in the United States. Also, if you are looking to buy Wagyu and grill it up yourself, there is a list for you too.

If you are in the Los Angeles or SoCal area, here are a few of the most prominent Japanese yakiniku (grilled beef) restaurants.

If you are not into grilling your own meat, you will want to pass on these spots (and take up knitting).

1. Manpuku

Is owned and operated by a Japanese-based international restaurant group that operates a couple of my favorite restaurants in LA, Manpuku and Izakaya Hachi. These two restaurants are just a couple out of the ten brands that operate primarily in the U.S. and Japan.
Address: West LA, Torrance, West Hollywood, and Costa Mesa.

Tip: be sure to call ahead to check on wait times because this place is always busy although Izakaya Hachi in Torrance is the busiest of them all. You can also hit up Takeshi at the new W. Hollywood location, tell him we said “what up foo.” (and Izakaya Hachi)

Photo Description: three slices of very marbled wagyu are placed on a black plate. There is also a large cube of fat sitting atop the slices which would be used to grill the meat. The sauce looks to be a soy sauce based sauce.

2. Yazawa Beef

The newcomer of yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurants in Los Angeles. They are a Japanese international restaurant group that specializes in wagyu beef with five locations in Tokyo, Kyoto, Singapore, Milan, and Beverly Hills.
Address: 9669 S Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Phone: (310) 275-2914
Tip: have deep pockets or a homie with deep pockets.

Photo Description: looks like a nice balance between marbling and muscle, the slices are almost triangular and semi thin. You can also see salt and pepper sprinkled over the top.

3. Seikoen

Seikoen is an “old school” establishment that has been in the Torrance area for quite some time, and as far as I know, they are independently owned and operated. This is also the spot that most Nihonjin’s (Japanese people) will typically suggest I go to for yakiniku.
Address: 1730 Sepulveda Blvd #14, Torrance, CA 90501 (Western Town Plaza)
Phone: (310) 534-5578
Tip: be sure to call head to check on wait times.
No website, they’re old school.

Photo Description: in white plate with several slices of nicely marbled wagyu (cut like the typical yakiniku restaurant), along with a sprig of parsley and a soy sauce based sauce lightly atop the wagyu.

4. Tamaen

Tamaen is probably one of the few places in the U.S. that you can get several types of wagyu. They not only offer up Kobe beef, but also American wagyu by Snake River Farms (SRF) and USDA prime beef from the U.S. and Australia.
Address: 1935 Pacific Coast Hwy, Lomita, CA 90717
Phone: (310) 326-0829
Tip: be sure to call ahead to check on wait times because this is another very Japanese place that is tiny (don’t expect a lot for atmosphere either except for the scent of beef in the air). (very nicely done website)

Photo Description: five finger like cuts of wagyu atop a white plate and a banana leaf. The cuts are very nicely marbled with a soy sauce looking sauce, along with salt and pepper. Additionally, a small corn on the cob section, white onion, a chili, and kabocha.

Where You Will Find Us

We are regulars at Manpuku and Hachi although you need to check them all out.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: