Kobe Beef is one of the most prestigious foods nowadays all over the world. The
status of Kobe Beef has even been promoted to a level that it becomes the icon of
Japanese food and foodies.
From Wikipedia, it is said that the origin of Kobe Beef is associated with the
import of cattle to Japan. Japan’s topography is unique, with mountainous region
providing the conditions that can “yield herds that developed and maintained qualities
in their meat that differ significantly from other breeds of cattle”. Japanese people
deeply believed in the idea that meat is dirty, and obeyed the taboo banning meat
eating at that time. Cwiertka states that Western people felt the urge to import meat
from outside Japan in order to feed themselves in the essay about “modernity of food
eating in Japan”. The import caused the interbred between the cattle in Japan and
many other kinds of cattle from outside the world. And one kind of such cattle was
recognized as “Kobe Beef” because it is from Kobe.
The interbred not only happened in Kobe. It is a nationwide phenomenon. Not
only Kobe Beef, the general quality of beef in Japan is very well-known all over
the world. There are other regions in Japan such as Matsusaka, Miyazaki, and Iwate
which are also proud of their native beef. However, it is interesting to notice that
Kobe Beef enjoys significantly more prestigious reputation than beefs from other
areas. As a matter of fact, the actual meaning of the word Kobe Beef has gone through
some changes. And it is the essential reason for Kobe Beef’s prestige.
From Wikipedia, we know that in 1983, “The Kobe Beef Marketing and
Distribution Promotion” was formed. Its website lists all the strict procedures from
breeding to slaughtering to shipping of Kobe Beef. As for the cattle itself, it should
also fulfill many requirements to be certified as a “Kobe Beef”. It actually means
that Kobe Beef is no longer specifically restricted in the area of Kobe or Kansai. It
has become a general concept, or a criterion for beef of high quality. Compared to
other areas in Japan, Kansai area where Kobe is located is more economically well-
developed, so the organization has more sufficient resource for the promotion. On the
other hand, by making details, the image of “Kobe Beef” is clearly established. The
certification is not only for Kobe area, which encourages people in other regions to
participate in joining the “Kobe Beef” family. It is one of the most important factor to
make Kobe Beef popular.
For foreigners, Kobe beef is the icon showing the delicacy and prestige of
Japanese food. There are some myths that Kobe Beef enjoys massage and music when
being fed. On the website of The Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion,
“much love, labor and care” are emphasized. All those information creates the sense
of exoticism to foreigners. Its astonishingly high price also marks its value.
In sum, Kobe Beef has gone through some changes in the history. With the effort
of promotion from domestic organization and the qualities that attracts foreigners, its
becoming of Japanese icon is not surprising.