Why do Westerners call it “Kobe beef”?

Kobe is one the more famous places for Japanese beef (wagyu) but Matsuzaka is much more respected amongst people who really know their beef and the Japanese more generally, and anyway when non-Japanese say “Kobe beef” they are usually referring to expensive Japanese beef (with its marbled fat etc) in general.

I’d always wondered about this and finally found an explanation in the book I’m reading at the moment, Sushi and Beyond. The book is scattered with basic errors (including spelling the place Matsusaka most of the time, while once getting it right on the very same page), but until someone comes up with a better explanation, this is all I’ve got…

Because Kobe was the place where most Westerners first came across Japanese beef, being one of the major open ports in the Meiji era, the whole ingredient got named after the place, apparently. Teppanyaki was also invented in Kobe, so the fame of the beef might have spread with that way of cooking it.

The next post will also be related to teppanyaki, should you be interested.

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