A couple of nights in a cabin out in the hills of Ibaraki Prefecture turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. From the cabin itself and its family friendly campground to the local sights like the amazing Fukuroda Falls, there was a lot to like about our few days here.
Included here was my experience with Ibaraki's famous wagyu beef. With its highly marbled fat content, wagyu is meat so tender that it literally melts in the mouth as it's eaten. Japanese wagyu is a high quality delicacy with a number of locations, particularly in the western Kansai region like Kobe and Matsuzaka, deservedly famous for their wagyu brands.
It turns out, however, that Ibaraki is also famous for its marbled meat. I'm not sure why but this came as a surprise to me when we stopped by a local butcher to pick up some supplies for our BBQ. I was told that Ibaraki's wagyu is known as Hitachi and comes from black cows fed only with Ibaraki grown grains. Mindful of the price - wagyu isn't cheap - and interested in a new culinary experience, we picked up a single two hundred gram steak and headed off to eat.
My first time grilling wagyu was certainly a lesson. Mindful to not over cook the meat, I took it off the grill a tad too early and the resulting taste was clearly too raw. Not much room for error, it seems and so I let the steak cook a little more. Then we ate. Well, well, what can I say? Melt-in-your-mouth is exactly the right expression for wagyu.
But some advice. While I appreciate the meat's delicacy, my experience told me that wagyu needs to be cooked properly and eaten in smaller portions. Get that part right and you will see just why wagyu is one of Japan's most well-respected cuisines.