Takayama Hidagyu Beef: All You Need To Know!

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If you’re visiting Takayama, the famous Takayama Hidagyu Beef is definitely a dish that you’ll want to try while you’re there. But why is there such a high grade of wagyu (Japanese Beef) that is little known outside of Japan? In this post, we’ll tell you all you need to know about Hidagyu (Hida Beef) in Takayama!

Hidagyu Takayama Hida Beef A5 Grade
Hidagyu Takayama Hida Beef A5 Grade

History of Hidagyu Takayama Hida Beef

One of the first things we asked was why “Hida” was often used interchangeably with “Takayama”. So is it Hida Beef or Takayama Hida Beef or simply Takayama Beef? The answer? All of them are correct!

This is because, Takayama or 高山 simply means high mountains. The word “Hida” is an old provincial reference which is used to differentiate itself from the other “Takayamas” (or high mountains). Nonetheless, in reality, when you say Takayama, it usually refers to Hida Takayama. Hence, whether you talk about Hidagyu or Takayama Beef, they essentially refer to the same high quality beef from Hida Takayama.

The second question is what is the pedigree of Hidagyu Takayama that makes it so special? Contrary to popular belief of wagyu beef derived from cows that bask in sunshine, given massages and drink plenty of beer, Takayama Hidagyu is actually derived from a single cow. It was said that a farmer discovered a pedigree Takayama Bull named Yasufuku in 1981. Yasufuku was a black-haired Japanese cattle breed who subsequently produced 39,000 cattles in its lifetime. Meaning, all the Hidagyu that you and I enjoy today, came indirectly from this one cattle named Yasufuku!

Thanks to Yasufuku, we get to enjoy high quality Takayama Hidagyu Beef today!
Thanks to Yasufuku, we get to enjoy high quality Takayama Hidagyu Beef today!

Lastly, we also wondered what does “A5 Hidagyu” mean? At reputable restaurants, you’ll find the term “A5” used as a certification for the hidagyu that they use. A5 refers to the overall grade of the beef.

The letter A in front refers to the “Yield” – The amount of meat that can be derived from a certain portion of the cattle. They are graded according to the following

Grade A : above standard
Grade B : standard
Grade C : below standard

The number 5 behind refers to the “Marbling” – strips of fat in the beef. They are graded accoding to the Beef Marbling Standard (BMS) from 1 to 12.

5: Excellent (BMS 8 to 12)
4: Good (BMS 5 to 7)
3: Average (BMS 3 to 4)
2: Below average (BMS 2)
1: Poor (BMS 1)

All this means that “A5” refers to the highest grade given to a cut of wagyu, or in our case, hidagyu.

Takayama Hidagyu Beef Dishes

From what we’ve seen, there are 5 ways to try hidagyu in Takayama. They are Hoba Miso Hidagyu, Hidagyu Sukiyaki, Hidagyu Sushi, Hidagyu Bun and Hidagyu Yakiniku…

Takayama Hidagyu Beef – Hoba Miso Hidagyu

Hida Takuma Takayama Hoba Miso Hida Beef Steak (4600 yen)
Hida Takuma Takayama Hoba Miso Hida Beef Steak (4600 yen)

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In Takayama, there is a very unique way of having hidagyu – that is grilling it with hida-made miso, placed on a magnolia leaf, slow grilled over an individual stone stove (ie Hoba Miso Hidagyu). One thing we learnt about miso during our Japan Travels was that the taste is not “salty”, instead, it is called “umami” – the fifth element of taste. Which means, you do not actually get thirsty after having miso. Also, miso is said to be good for the gut and digestive system. Which also means that the Hoba Miso Hidagyu is not only tasty but good for you as well! ;P The hidagyu steak (Hoba Miso Style) set retailed at 4600 yen.

Takayama Hidagyu Beef – Hidagyu Sukiyaki

Check out the marbling of the A5 Hidagyu at Hida Takuma!
Check out the marbling of the A5 Hidagyu at Hida Takuma!

Sukiyaki is another popular way to enjoy hidagyu. The rich flavour of hidagyu is amplified with the sweet soy based sukiyaki sauce. Having the relatively expensive hidagyu sliced into transparent slices also allows you to have more slices and enjoy the wonderful taste of hida beef for a longer period of time. The hidagyu sukiyaki set retailed at 4400 yen.

Check out this short video of our amazing (Hida Beef) meal at Hida Takuma…

Takayama Hidagyu Beef – Hidagyu Sushi

Hidagyu Sushi Takayama
Hidagyu Sushi Takayama

Another way to really taste the true marvel of hidagyu is having it raw – yes, raw beef in the form of a hidagyu sushi! As expected, Kate gave this a miss while Tom ventured on for the sake of our readers, and his tummy of course. 😛 On a serious note, the fats actually melted away on each chew of the beef. No gamey taste just flavourful fattiness from the beef. 2 pieces of amazing hidagyu sushi goes for 600 yen.

Takayama Hidagyu Beef – Hidagyu Bun

Inside Takayama Hida Beef Bun
Inside Takayama Hida Beef Bun

This is probably the least recommended way. Wait, let us rephrase that – NOT RECOMMENDED AT ALL. Please do not try the hidagyu bun in Takayama. As described by Kate, it was more like “leftover low grade hidagyu” that were heavily seasoned and stuffed into a bun, so that customers are not able to see what kind of meat they’re actually having. There was simply none of the hidagyu rich flavours that we described above while eating the hidagyu bun. At 450 yen, it was expensive as well. Give this a miss.

As the yakiniku style was fairly similar to the grilled style, we decided to give it a miss. If you have enjoyed yakiniku hidagyu, let us know more about your experience in the comments section below.

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We hope you have enjoyed our coverage of all you need to know about Hida Beef from Takayama. If you enjoyed it, do share this post with your mates travelling to Takayama as well!

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If you have just completed a post from our 12 days of travels in Japan. Find out more about this trip to Japan in the following posts below.

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