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Utsukushiya Higashimura Kimono Shop

Immerse in Japanese Culture through Sukiyaki

One of Mie’s world-class products is Matsusaka beef. It is one of Japan’s three great wagyu (Japanese beef) and is considered as work of art. The best way to eat it is sukiyaki, a Japanese dish where the meat is slowly cooked in a pot alongside vegetables. For this interview, we spoke with Mrs Higashimura, who runs a shop that promotes Japan’s food culture through sukiyaki.


Yoshiko Higashimura

Yoshiko Higashimura is the host of the Utsukushiya, a B&B style guest house which uses a renovated 70-year-old townhouse. She works with her partner and owner of the Higashimura Kimono Shop, established in 1924, and offers workshops or activities related to kimono, the guest house, and sukiyaki to convey Japan's culture. Visitors learn what makes Matsusaka beef special and how to cook it in sukiyaki deliciously.

What makes Matsusaka beef so special?

Matsusaka beef is distinguished by the meticulous attention taken in its production and its long fattening process. Raising the cattle in a low-stress environment without forcing them to gain weight is essential for producing flavorful meat. The Special Grade Matsusaka beef in particular requires more than 900 days. All of them are female cows who have never given birth, raised with extra care. The farmers change the feed mix according to the cow's physical condition, brush them every day to improve blood flow, and keep the barns clean, among other measures.

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Why is Matsusaka beef perfect for sukiyaki?

The Matsusaka cattle are raised with a special diet and care, which results in the cattle having the best marbling ratio for sukiyaki, with nearly the same amount of marbling as lean meat. The fat is light and sweet, so I think cooking it in sukiyaki style enhances the flavour of the meat.

What are some aspects you focus on when selecting the ingredients for sukiyaki?

When I purchase ingredients, I first look to see if there is any locally-grown produce available in the market. It goes without saying that seasonal local produce are fresh and delicious, but we want to add something more special than that by making people feel like they have travelled to Matsusaka when eating the food we serve. We also use soy sauce, sugar, and kelp from Hokkaido for the soup stock. We carefully choose ingredients that are healthy, safe, and secure.

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What should I be most careful about when making sukiyaki?

It is important to keep a close eye on the meat so that it does not burn, and the heat should be kept at a medium-high that is not too strong. You need to pay attention to the changes in the sound while grilling the meat, as it will tell you when to turn it. You need to sharpen your senses and focus on the meat.

Do you have any tips on how to make sukiyaki at home?

It is important to know what your preference is. We suggest that you prepare it with ingredients you enjoy.
The amount and which part of the meat you like, the amount of sugar and soy sauce, the vegetables you would like to eat with it, etc. It would help if you considered these things until you find a perfect combination that suits your palate. Also, as I mentioned earlier, it's crucial to be mindful of the heat and determine the ideal amount of fat, so it doesn't burn.

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Utsukushiya Higashimura Kimono Shop

Utsukushiya is a B&B nestled in the centre of Matsusaka City in Mie Prefecture. It accepts one reservation per day (up to 2 people). It features dressing up guests in traditional kimonos and a Sukiyaki and Shabu-shabu workshop using Japan’s most prized beef, the Matsusaka Beef. Learn how to prepare, cook, and eat both sukiyaki and shabu-shabu from scratch!

Address: 1940 Nakamachi, Matsusaka, Mie 515-0083

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