For the second food themed event that Wannameshi attended, we visited the Japanese Beef Festival held at Shinjuku Chuo Park. For this particular event, we talked with Mr. Inoue of Blues Mobile, who was in charge of event planning and management.
WM: Thanks for meeting with us today. First, can you provide a quick summary of the event?
INOUE: The booths feature Japanese beef producers. The event mainly involves serving gyudon and yakinikudon to eventgoers to promote beef consumption. Other beef cuisine is also served, too.
WM: What was the impetus behind organizing such an event?
INOUE: As we’ve seen in the news about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the value of Japanese beef, or wagyu, is set to go down. Essentially wagyu will lose out to imports. As you know, wagyu is quite expensive. I think consumers find it hard to splurge on wagyu, even when they go grocery shopping.
Therefore, this event was organized because Japanese beef producers wanted to provide a chance for consumers to eat their products. They believe this will help to awaken people to the benefits of wagyu.
WM: So the aim of the event is for enable more consumers to enjoy wagyu, right?
INOUE: Yes, of course! I believe that Japanese beef is a part of Japanese culture. American-style wagyu, which brought wagyu to the United States, has risen in popularity and is selling quite well in the country. Imports of this American-style wagyu are actually cheaper than homegrown wagyu, so Japanese producers may lose out. Through the Japanese Beef Festival, we hope to market the merits of wagyu here in downtown Tokyo and reinvigorate the marketplace.
WM: Incidentally, why gyudon this year?
INOUE: This is because everyone knows what gyudon tastes like. In Tokyo we have Yoshinoya and Matsuya, among other chain stores. I believe the taste of gyudon is imprinted on all Japanese people. This is why we arrived at the thought that gyudon would be an effective means to showing people just how great wagyu brands taste.
WM: This is because the difference is quite noticeable, right?
INOUE: Hands down it tastes better than any gyudon consumers have eaten here in Tokyo (laughs). This is because the beef used in the dish tastes great, which is only possible because of these wagyu brands.
WM: Can you tell us why you selected the producers appearing here at this year’s event?
INOUE: We asked some of the most famous wagyu producers in Japan. I think we have a perfect number of booths given the size of this year’s venue location. The folks at the Iwate Minami-gyu booth are really into it. They even brought a mock-up of a cow with them (laughs). They had originally wanted to bring a real head of cattle with them, but that proved to be rather difficult.
WM: Which wagyu brand here is the most popular?
INOUE: That has to be Kobe beef. It’s a really famous wagyu brand. Most of the eventgoers always think Kobe beef first when thinking about wagyu brands. However, each booth has its own unique flavor, so I hope everyone makes the rounds to taste them all.
WM: What type of people does the event target?
INOUE: I see there are a lot of tourists visiting Japan here.
WM: I just saw a few a little earlier, too!
INOUE: We had to make Chinese and English signage on the fly.
WM: You weren’t originally targeting the tourist crowd, were you?
INOUE: Once the event started, they just started showing up (laughs). I was asked by a few about what was going on and how could they buy the food. I was quite surprised. This is why we made the English signage. There are also a large number of Chinese tourists in the crowd as well.
WM: What do you make of the large turnout of tourists?
INOUE: Everyone is having a good time, so I think the event has fulfilled its purpose.
WM: You probably want to educate tourists about the merits of wagyu, too, right?
INOUE: That’s right. Kobe beef is a worldwide sensation, with people coming from around the world to eat it here in Japan.
WM: With the Tokyo Olympics set for 2020, the number of tourists visiting Japan should continue to increase going forward.
INOUE: I’m thinking about holding one of these events outside of Japan sometime in the future. I think China or Singapore would be a good location. It’d be great to share Japanese culture with others.
WM: Although the event is still underway, is there any part you would like to change?
INOUE: Beef is being eaten more frequently these days and not just in gyudon. I hope that this trend will continue so beef is eaten in many more dishes. On weekdays the number of visitors drops off quite dramatically compared to weekends, but the salaried workers around here come over to eat during lunchtime. I really hope that more and more people can understand the merits of wagyu brands.
WM: Seeing just how crowded the venue is here today, I can’t help but feel the merits of wagyu are being steadily conveyed. What other types of food themed events do you organize?
INOUE: In the autumn we organize an even for tsukemen noodles. We are currently holding a meat soup festival in Osaka.
WM: What kind of event is the meat soup festival?
INOUE: This is a four-week event that spans from April 14 to May 11, with around 40 booths. It has really been a popular draw (laughs). This event focuses on meat soup dishes. Visitors then vote to determine the best of Japan. I hope to organize more food themed events like this in the future to share great foods with more people.
WM: Thank you for your time today.
The Wannameshi staff had a blast trying the gyudon from every booth at the event and discovered that each wagyu brand had its own unique taste. The event was great because it made it easy to try many type of wagyu brands.
There will be a tsukemen noodle event in the autumn which we plan on attending, too. We look forward to reporting on this event for you this autumn.