“Bisyoku-tabi” (“Gourmet Journey”) is a new project in which “Tabearukists” (a word inspired by the Japanese words taberu “to eat” and aruku “to walk”) introduce and give recommendations on the food, restaurants, producers, and specialties of a region to visitors.
The first item we’re going to introduce is the Wagyu beef called “Oki-gyu” that we found on Shimane Prefecture’s remote Oki Islands!
■What kind of islands are the Oki Islands?
Part of Shimane Prefecture, the Oki Islands is an isolated archipelago in the Sea of Japan. The archipelago is located 40~80km north of the Shimane Peninsula and is composed of 4 major islands: the Dozen island group (Nishinoshima, Nakanoshima, and Chiburijima, home to the towns Nishinoshima-cho, Nishinoama-cho, and Chibumura) and Dogo Island (Okinoshima-cho). The Oki Islands also contain over 180 unnamed islands. As a whole, the islands are rich in untouched natural beauty.
■Enjoy eating Oki-gyu beef, born and raised on the islands
One of the most well-known shops on the Oki Islands is the “Shima-umare Shima-sodachi Oki-gyu Mise” (“Island born and island raised Oki-gyu Shop”) This shop has a warm and welcoming atmosphere in which you can enjoy eating Oki-gyu while sitting at either a counter or in a private room. They offer a menu of yakiniku and shabu-shabu.
When we visited, we ordered the specialty fillet and specialty roast. Oki-gyu beef typically has gaps between the fibers that give it an appetizing appearance. The specialty fillet has fine slivers of fat inbetween hearty red meat combined together to create an excellent flavor, and the specialty roast is made of very tender meat with just a hint of fat that is delightfully easy to chew. Despite the fact that the only preparation that goes into the food is cutting and cooking it, the meat naturally has a delicious flavor that is the proof of its high quality. To accent the flavor we recommend wasabi. You only need to add a little bit of wasabi for it to draw out the flavor even more.
At the front counter you can buy a variety of cuts of Oki-gyu beef to take home with you.
「“Shima-umare Shima-sodachi Oki-gyu Mise”」
Address: 1368 Fukui, Ama-chō, Oki-gun, Shimane-ken 684-0404
Open Hours: Afternoon 11:00~14:00 (Last orders at 13:30), Evening 17:00~22:00 (Last orders at 21:00)
Access: 1 minute walk from Hishiura Port.
Oki-gyu is a name given to cattle that meets a strict set of standards that apply from the time the cattle is raised all the way to when the finished beef is shipped. On the Oki Islands only about 1000 cattle are born per year and of those 1000 cows only around 10% are likely to meet the standards to be sold as Oki-gyu. Oki-gyu cows are allowed to freely graze on the islands and so compared to mainland cows their legs and loins are tougher and they have much stronger immune systems. They are raised in areas where the salty sea breeze blows across the pastures and their diet of mineral-rich grass and homemade feed is one of the secrets of Oki-gyu’s delicious flavor.
■Meet the producers of Oki-gyu
The Oki-Shiokaze Farm has adopted “Island-born Island-raised Consistent Quality Product” as their concept and has poured their efforts into the production of Oki-gyu. In 2015 over 80% of their products were awarded top ranking by the Japan Meat Grading Association and their beef is well-valued throughout Japan. Oki-Shiokaze Farm raises their cows with special attention given to each cow as they are raised. It takes about 32 months just to raise one cow, with their pasture fertilizer being made of a very particular mix of island-grown grass and rice straw.
Oki-Shiokaze Farms’ staff says that “We compete with our quality, and want you to acknowledge that quality.” From these words you can feel the passion and drive that these cattle producers have for the flavor of the beef that they produce.
“Bisyoku-tabi” ~Oki Islands~: Image Gallery
“Tabearukists” are members of the Tabearukist Association that visit over 300 eateries per year. The association is named after “tabearuki” (walking and eating), the practice of going around to various stores and thoroughly sampling menus to find rare and delicious food. As writers, Tabearukists are dedicated to collecting and conveying information about delicious food all over Japan for tourists.