HYOGO, Jun.9 – A lady in traditional long-sleeve kimono had a beef sword in hand and swiftly cut a block of Wagyu beef like an artist. Marika Watanabe, 28, is a Japanese master butcher who travels worldwide to present her wagyu cutting demonstrations as a “wagyu kimono butcher.” She often talks with Wagyu beef producers in Japan as well. “I know the farmers raise cows with great care. I respect their efforts, so I must derive full value from their wagyu meat,” she said.
There was a big block of Kobe beef sitting in front of her. She quickly tucked up her sleeves with a sash and cut the meat swiftly and cleanly.
“I don’t worry about kimono that much as I’m used to it. It makes me stand out as a Japanese and gives me a heightened sense of mission,” she said.
She started thinking of becoming a butcher at college, so she got a job at a meat shop in the Tsukiji Outer Market. Then, she met a person from S Foods Inc., a meat wholesaler in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, and became a contracted professional butcher engaged in its worldwide wagyu sales promotion. The company suggested she dress in traditional kimono to make her demonstrations look more Japanese.
Watanabe has carried out the demonstrations at food shows and lectures for local food professionals in more than 20 countries.
In Dubai, a hot country, the master butcher showed how to cut wagyu into thin slices; in Bulgaria, a cold country where stews are popular, she demonstrated how to cut beef shank. Her style of wearing beautiful kimono and respecting local food culture has gained a reputation and created ripple effects such as live cut shows aired by foreign influencers.
Watanabe spends a lot of time heightening her skills and knowledge and visiting wagyu farmers in Japan.
Kazuki Morimoto, 59, is a beef breeder and grower in Sayo Town, Hyogo Prefecture. He communicates with Watanabe, who once cut his beef. “She is so skillful, and I can trust her with my cows that I grew with great care since they were baby calves,” he said.
“The butcher’s role is to carry the whole story at the production site and the processing plant when cutting meat so that customers can enjoy wagyu beef to the fullest,” she emphasized. In the near future, she will go to Saudi Arabia and the U.S. “I want to keep elevating my skills to bring the best out of Wagyu,” she committed.