Things I love about Japan: Yakiniku (焼き肉)

Over the weekend, Ryosuke and I went out to yakiniku (焼き肉). Yakiniku, literally “fried meat,” is a type of Japanese food that I’ve grown to love.

yaki niku yakiniku japan tokyo beef food restaurant

It’s also rather pricey, meaning that we don’t spring for it very often. The price makes sense, though, because yakiniku is basically just stuffing your face with a ton of quality meat.

Yakiniku restaurants give you a table with a “grill” in the center, so you can cook you own meat. My first couple times at yakiniku, I cooked the meat until it was blackened on every surface, since I was terrified about accidentally consuming under-cooked beef.

yaki niku yakiniku japan tokyo beef food restaurant


Those were also the days when I felt uncomfortable eating raw fish (except for salmon) or raw eggs in sukiyaki. I’ve progressed quite a bit since then. I’ve also come to realize that since people weren’t dropping like flies after a night of yakiniku, it probably wasn’t going to kill me.

I feel much more comfortable eating semi-raw beef now.

I still cook my meat for longer than Ryosuke, of course, but I no longer cook it until it resembles leather. As a result, I have come to adore yakiniku.

How to eat Yakiniku in Japan:

1. Order your plates.

There are typically two types of yakiniku: all you can eat or by the plate. I’ve done both. I prefer the “all you can eat,” so I don’t feel guilty every time I order food. Spending money still makes me nervous.

yaki niku yakiniku japan tokyo beef food restaurant


2. Cook the meat over the grill until it has reached it’s desired form

When we go out with friends, I err on the side of “too cooked” instead of “not cooked enough.” That’s the other way I mark my meat, to make sure no one else eats the piece I have my eye on.

No one wants to nibble on the American’s over-cooked meat.

yaki niku yakiniku japan tokyo beef food restaurant

3. Grab a couple cuts of meat, dip them in the sauces, and enjoy!

I love the sauces. There are a couple “common” ones that every shop has – but there are other specialty sauces particular to the restaurant.

I believe in trying as many sauces as possible. It’s fun.

I like sauces with a bit of a “kick.” My favorites are Yuzu, lemon, or “spicy.”

4. Order more meat, lot of meat

Because, why not? You’ve already paid rent this month, right?

yaki niku yakiniku japan tokyo beef food restaurant

5. Try more sauces.

Always try more sauces.

6. Ask for a new grill, because yours has become blackened by the meat and oils

The first time Ryosuke asked them to switch the grill, I was embarassed. I thought we were being too picky/greedy. Now I’ve come to realize that switching out the grill is normal and I just have weird insecurities.

7. Order more meat (and then realize you probably can’t finish it)

yaki niku yakiniku japan tokyo beef food restaurant

8. Feel bad about how you might be killing your body and order lettuce wraps (those count as vegetables, right?)

yaki niku yakiniku japan tokyo beef food restaurant

9. Try not to pass out when you see the bill

The most expensive place Ryosuke and I have ever been to wasn’t even that “expensive” by yakiniku standards. It still ended up being a little over 40,000yen / $400 for four people. Gha.

Thankfully, the other couple was treating us – otherwise I probably would have cried when we got the bill.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, it was the most delicious meat I have ever eaten in my entire life.

10. Have a stomach ache the next day because of all the meat you ate (but still be happy)

I don’t eat meat ever day. I’m not a vegetarian… I just don’t enjoy the taste of certain kinds of meats. I prefer the taste of vegetables.

As a result, when Ryosuke cooks, I usually eat a couple pieces of meat and give the rest to him (he needs the extra protein anyways, since he works out so often). It just depends on the meal.

Yakiniku is one of the few times I eat such a concentrated amount of meat – so my stomach always feels a bit off the next day.

11. Repeat as soon as you have money again

Yakiniku is so expensive. Ahhh.

As a die-hard cheapo, I’m conflicted.

yaki niku yakiniku japan tokyo beef food restaurant

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

27 Comments on Things I love about Japan: Yakiniku (焼き肉)

  1. Eric Janson // 12 February, 2016 at 5:31 pm //

    Found another great bargain yakiniku— this one a bit far off, in Ube, not far from Ubeshinakawa Eki. It’s called Yakiniku Kalbi Taishou. Top quality and downright cheap by Tokyo standards, plus fast and friendly service.

  2. Very expensive indeed! But I am sure that delicious as you also claim that it is.
    I did know about yakiniku but I have never eaten (sadly) I would like to try it out sometime!
    Totally feel you on the “I prefer the taste of vegetables”, I am completely the same.
    As always, a pleasure to read you d(^o^)o

  3. Eric Janson // 15 November, 2015 at 6:57 pm //

    An EXCELLENT Yakiniku at an in- between price is Satsuma Ushinokura, located on 5F Moon Street building, at Hamamatsuchou / Daimon. They get all their beef from six different organic ranchers in Kagoshima. Reservations are essential as it’s extremely popular. Super high quality at a moderate price.

  4. hum… nothing to do with raclette or fondue actually ^^’.
    – Fondue bourguignonne (=meat + boiling water) would be more like sukiyaki.
    – Raclette could be compared.. maybe with okonomyaki or teppanyaki? Just because of the hot plate… ingredients are completely different.
    – Yakiniku is simply a barbecue. Not different from our bbq in terms of technique except meat is particularly delicious in Japan @_@

  5. Have you ever been to a Stamina Taro (すたみな太郎)? I think someone else commented about a place that’s all you can eat for lunch for ¥1500, and that sounds like Stamina Taro. There was one near the Aeon Mall in Akita that I used to go to, and there’s one in Aomori near me, so it’s definitely a chain available everywhere. And while it might not be the MOST high quality meat, it’s certainly not bad. I really like it. When I want my yakiniku fix, I usually go there.

  6. This reminds me of Korean Barbecue.
    I would love to eat this one day but unfortunately it costs too much :/

  7. Well, at least now you have an idea on what your alternative career path would be if full time comic book writing does not pan out. You can always own a yakiniku shop instead!

  8. Carnivorous Chinese-American Andy would totally go for that. He would also ensure that no profit was made by the restaurant. (His goal in life is to bankrupt buffets.)

    • I approve of this Andy fellow.

      I also had a 3 year phase in high school where I was determined to drive the “all you can eat” home-style restaurant down the street out of business. I have no regrets.

  9. Su-chan // 24 May, 2015 at 12:06 am //

    I love yakiniku too but I rarely go out for yakiniku because my husband says its unhealthy to eat too much meat. I think cooking food at the table is neat though, I love sitting to watch it cook. You mentioned you were worried about eating raw meat and liked to have meat that was blackened on every surface, well I have heard that burnt meat can produce cancer-causing chemicals. Eating burnt meat from a barbeque or grill can significantly increase the chance of developing pancreatic cancer.

  10. Anonymous // 23 May, 2015 at 11:37 pm //

    I hear about people getting sick in America for eating raw meat all the time -how come I never hear about it overseas? Do I just not hear about it? Or do we just have some bizarre tainted meat epidemic going on?

  11. $100 a pop? Poor Tokyoites!
    Or was that just a super fancy place? I think we spend between $30-40, like a steak dinner, when we do yakiniku.

  12. I used to love yakinikku especially when I was on low carb but now I barely eat meat and prefer to eat fish meat at the sushi bar :)

  13. I know that the meat is far superior in those restaurants than you usually get from the store, however I am wondering if its anything similar experience as having a raclette evening (without the cheese obviously)?
    I feel rather hungry now..

  14. Jessica // 23 May, 2015 at 2:47 pm //

    After moving to Japan the first thing my husband and I tried was okonomiyaki the day we arrived- we were not fans of it. The second thing we tried was an all you can eat yakiniku- Gyu-kaku! It was absolutely delicious! It’s now become one of our favorite date night spots in the local area.

    It is a bit depressing how expensive it can be, depending on what quality you want….but it’s so worth it, even if you feel like you get garlic breath for a week after, no matter how many time you brush, floss and gargle.

    (Don’t worry, we’ve grown to love okonomiyaki since that first experience! :) )

  15. Anonymouse // 23 May, 2015 at 11:18 am //

    I absolutely love yakiniku! Although I only ever want to do the all you can eat plans, because otherwise I either spend more than 5,000 yen or go home hungry.

    There are actually 3 restaurants I go to in my area:
    1) A place that does all you can eat lunch buffet for 1,500 yen. It’s not the highest quality, but it’s tasty and hits the spot when I’m craving a ridiculous amount of meat.

    2) Gyu-kaku. Their all you can eat menu is pricy (starting at about 3,000 yen), but they have a wide variety of dishes and they are a major chain so there’s a good chance you can find one in your area.

    3) A restaurant called Yakoya that’s about the same price as Gyu-kaku (starting from 2,700 yen), but offers a selection of wagyu on their all you can eat menu. It goes without saying, but the quality of meat is superb, especially considering the price.

    The other thing I love is all you can eat sukiyaki/shabu-shabu places. There’s one in Hankyu Umeda called Shabu Sai (しゃぶ菜) that offers an all you can eat course for like 2,000 yen. One of the things I really like about sukiyaki/shabu-shabu is that there’s always a good veggie selection to go with the meat.

    • There was this really good shabu-shabu place near our old place… I miss it so much. They had excellent “all you can eat” sets starting at like 2000yen.
      And yes, there is a gyu-kaku near(ish) to our place. I’ve heard excellent things about it, so it’s on my list of places to go~

      This new place does have a lunch “all you can eat” that doesn’t look TOO bad (price-wise), so I need to check that out soon.

    • Okay that looks yummy and I just about chocked on my raspberry tea when I saw the price! But I cant have beef because of too much uric acid in my system. so they offer like chicken or pork something like that? But still I would feel so bad spending that kind of money on a meal. I just don’t think I could bring my self to spend that on dining out, I think I would probably say do you know how much groceries I can buy for the home, with $400.

  16. Yaku is the verb “to grill” and ageru is the verb “to fry” so literally, yakiniku means “grilled meat” not fried…. Anyway I’ve never paid that much for yakiniku in my life. Usually we go to places that are about $30 per person or less.

    • Anonymouse // 23 May, 2015 at 11:34 am //

      Um, actually 焼く (yaku) is a pretty broad verb that includes grilling, baking, pan frying, and other methods of cooking using heat. Grace’s use of it in this case is not incorrect, since she was going for a literal translation and “fry” is an accurate word for the type of cooking the meat goes through (as is grill, barbeque, and probably others I’m not thinking of).

      揚げる (ageru), by the way, tends to refer to food fried in oil, especially deep fried food. In many cases what we would use “fry” for in English would either be yaku or itameru (炒める), not ageru.

      Because words have many meanings and nuances, translation is not an exact science and so different people will translate things differently. I, personally, would have translated yaku as “barbeque” in this case, partly because the common translation for yakiniku is Japanese barbeque. It’s no more or less correct than Grace’s choice of “fry” or your choice of “grill”.

      I know it can be tempting to correct other people’s translations, but unless you are really sure of your understanding of both the original and the translated language, I would advise against it.

  17. I wish I liked Yakiniku, but it continues to be a disappointment every time we go. I don’t like having to order ala carte, but meal specials are usually only available for lunch. I like lots of vegetables with my meat too, so I find the “mostly meat” approach less fun. I’ve also decided that the “cook my own food” approach is not as fun as it appears at first. I cook at home all the time, so going out and cooking my own food just isn’t as fun. If it’s just me, it’s not so bad, but with the family, I end up doing all the cooking and it’s kind of stressful. Anyway, glad you like it, but that’s why we’re less fond of it.

  18. $100 per person? *feels faint*

  19. This sounds a little like something we have in France (I was born there and lived there until I was 11). Its like a mix between a “Raclette” and a “fondue bourguignonne” :)

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