Have you Heard of Hayama Gyu Japanese Beef?
Here is the story of my visit to a Ranch just outside of Tokyo
Just a few days ago, I had an opportunity to visit one of the best “Wagyu Cattle Ranches” in Japan, which is located in the city of Hayama, less than 2 hours train/ bus ride from Tokyo. The ranch is surrounded by serene nature, it lies among a combination of bamboo, cedar forest, a stream and many farmlands.
“Wagyu” is “Japanese Beef” and is a breed of cattle that perhaps many internationals associate with “Kobe Beef”. Kobe beef is also one of the most well known Wagyu in Japan and is also known to be quite delicious. “Hayamagyu” or Hayama Beef is also very famous and the cattle ranch I visited is one farm that produces this lovely beef. Located in the city of Hayama, the most desired part of Hayamagyu is that it is genetically predisposed to intense marbling and also that it produces a high percentage of oleaginous unsaturated fat. Wagyu is also produced in Australia, Canada, Scotland, and the United States as an example but some countries cross breed them with other type of cattle such as Angus Cattle.
Here is some great information about the Wagyu breed.
The cattle ranch I visit is call “Ishii Bokujyou (Ishii Ranch)” and Ishii came from their family name and they have been operating the ranch for 60 years. Mr. and Mrs. Ishii run the place but Mrs. Ishii’s father started the ranch around 60 years ago and they built the present ranch in Hayama in 1963 and it’s been there since then. Their Wagyu cows are black in color and very large in size. Ishii ranch has won many competitions for the last several years and the present Prime Minister Abe has been served and enjoyed Ishii Ranch’s wagyu as well.
Here is an Italian restaurant in Hayama where you can eat Hayamagyu!
The ranch is not very large by size but completely functional. All cattle are housed under the roof and they seem to be stress-free for when I arrived at the ranch, they were listening to the music from the local radio station as well as listening to the announcer speaking on the air. The reason why they broadcast the station is so that they get used to people speaking and when the visitors come by, the cows will not be stressed from their visitors’ presence and/or conversation. As matter of fact, when I roamed around the place, they seemed to be completely used to having humans nearby.
Mr. Ishii shared with me the secret of Ishii Bokujyo’s Hayama Wagyu as to what makes its meat so tender and delicious. He claims that the 60% to 70% of the secret belongs to the type of food cows eat and the remaining 30% to 40% belongs to their style of care.
The type of good food for the may be much more balanced that the typical food I eat, that's for sure! The owners cook rice, just like the type we eat each day, Oatmeal is imported from Australia and this too is mixed with the cattle feed. Also, Okara (soy pulp), Green-young hay imported from the United States mixed with the local hay along with other vegetable mixes. When they mix the food, the fermentation process takes place so they add Osu (vinegar) to the food so that it is close to the Ph level of 7.
It was apparent that the family takes pride in what they do and work extremely hard each day to care for their cows. Oh, I should not forget to mention about their cat that also roams around the ranch, keeping all the cows in check. The cat is very friendly to visitors and love to gain attention from anyone, perhaps even from her cow friends.
Hayama Wagyu is extremely famous in Japan and since the number of cows raised each year is very limited, it is not the cheapest of beef by far. But, it will not disappoint your pallet in the least. Ishii family’s years of experience coupled with their hard work is behind their ability to produce first class beef in Japan.
Thank you very much to Ishii family for allowing me to visit their ranch and experience the Japanese ranch life in the middle of Hayama city. It was a great and peaceful way to spend a Sunday morning.