Where Does Wagyu Come From? Each Japanese Prefecture Explained

Wagyu is one of the world’s most sought after types of meat for its extreme taste profile and high-quality upbringing. True Wagyu can only be found in specific regions, or in this case, prefectures in Japan. Different prefectures produce vastly differing types of Wagyu. Some prefectures have unique climates and agricultural methods of raising cattle, which changes the fundamental taste and marbling of each cut of wagyu beef. 

How is Meat Classified as Wagyu?

You can only classify meat as true Japanese Wagyu if it meets these few strict criteria. First of all, real wagyu comes from specific breeds of Japanese cattle. These cattle are raised in highly controlled environments which differ depending on its region or prefecture. In addition to its origin and lineage, the cattle must also contain a genetic predisposition for developing marbling, which contributes to the overall taste and tenderness of real wagyu. 

These strict regulations and specific characteristics ensure that only authentic, high-quality wagyu reaches consumers, solidifying its position as a premium and exclusive culinary experience.

What are “The Big Three” Prefectures of Wagyu Beef?

While many prefectures in Japan export wagyu to the world, some of the largest manufacturers are well-known as “The Big Three”. These three prefectures produce some of the highest quality and most abundant sources of wagyu worldwide. 

The Hyogo Prefecture

Nestled in western Japan, Hyogo Prefecture is renowned for its breathtaking scenery, rich history, and of course, its unparalleled contribution to the world of wagyu beef. While the prefecture is most famous for Kobe beef, Hyogo offers a diverse range of wagyu experiences, such as Tajima and Tamba beef. 

The Mie Prefecture

While Hyogo Prefecture takes center stage with the iconic Kobe beef, neighboring Mie Prefecture boasts its own wagyu champion – Matsusaka beef. This highly prized delicacy offers a distinct personality and flavor profile compared to its Kansai counterpart, making it a unique experience for wagyu enthusiasts.

The Shiga Prefecture

Located within central Japan lies Shiga Prefecture, the birthplace of Ohmi beef, one of the most celebrated wagyu varieties in the world. Ohmi beef is one of the oldest wagyu brands in Japan, predating even the well-known Kobe beef. 

What Are the Lesser Known Prefectures That Also Produce Wagyu?

While Kobe beef and other famous wagyu brands from the Kansai region dominate the spotlight, Japan offers a treasure trove of lesser-known prefectures producing exceptional wagyu varieties. Some of the other standout prefectures that produce wagyu include:

  • Hokkaido 
  • Yamagata
  • Ibaraki
  • Chiba
  • Iwate

As stated previously, Japanese wagyu is not exclusively restricted to the specific prefectures of “The Big Three” but rather to the nation of Japan itself. 

Where Can I Buy Real Wagyu Beef?

It’s becoming increasingly hard to find authentic wagyu in America, which high price points for exporting and legislation that makes these exports rarer to come by, true wagyu can only be purchased from a reputable source. 

Kolikof Caviar and Gourmet Foods is your one stop shop for all types of rare and exotic types of meat, including true Japanese A5 wagyu. We offer the highest quality cuts for premium meat such as our A5 Japanese Wagyu Boneless Ribeye which come directly from the Miyazaki and Kagoshima Prefectures. For those looking for a rarer and more exclusive cut of beef, we also offer a Japanese Wagyu Boneless New York Strip Steak