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Wagyu in an Island Paradise

Top-tier Japanese beef in the idyllic setting of subtropical Miyako Island

Miyako Island, Okinawa Prefecture - Okinawa



Miyako Island rises from azure waters that are considered some of the clearest in Japan. A subtropical paradise of white-sand beaches, coral reefs, sugar-cane fields, and tropical-fruit orchards, the island beckons with both its natural beauty and its promise of tasty treats.


The island is also home to one of Japan’s luxury brands of wagyu (Japanese beef)—Miyako gyu. Because it is incredibly rare, this beef is sometimes referred to as “phantom” beef, and is a must-try should the opportunity to sample it arise.


So, hop on a plane and head southwest from mainland Japan—epicurean delights await on the little slice of subtropical heaven known as Miyako Island.


Introducing Miyako Gyu


Miyako gyu sizzling on a hot ceramic plate.


Connoisseurs of fine beef will be familiar with wagyu, which refers to beef from four designated breeds of Japanese cattle: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Polled, and Japanese Shorthorn. Within these breeds, cattle are branded by their geographical location, like the well-known Kobe gyu (Kobe beef), a variety of Japanese Black from Hyogo Prefecture.


Miyako Island may be small, but that hasn’t stopped it from having one of the most highly rated brands. Discover the island’s incredible beef for yourself at the popular downtown Miyako Island eatery Ryukyu Dining Faimeal.


The Mystery of the “Phantom Beef”


Miyako is a relatively small island, but with large swathes of green fields that are home to its cattle.


Touch down on Miyako Island, and take a look around. Feel the ocean breeze on your face, and breathe in the clean, clear air. As the chef-owner of Ryukyu Dining Faimeal, Muramoto Kazuhiko, explains that this pristine environment is one of the secrets behind Miyako gyu’s stellar quality. Another is the breeding method, which can be traced back to earlier days on the island.


Chef and owner of Ryukyu Dining Faimeal, Mr. Muramoto.


“On Miyako Island,” says Mr. Muramoto, “families traditionally kept several head of cattle as a side business. Because it wasn’t the main business, there was no need to rush to fatten the cattle, and so they grew fat slowly on a diet of straw and Miyako Island’s abundant groundwater.”


Even now, cattle operations are small, and a relaxed pace prevails—a combination that makes the meat hard to come by. But the gradual weight gain produces high-quality, tasty fat that melts in the mouth. A more than worthy trade-off, for sure.


Savor the Flavors of Conscientiously Raised Beef



The unassuming entrance to Ryukyu Dining Faimeal.


Ryukyu Dining Faimeal is a modern, stylish restaurant, whose interior is inspired by the historical homes of Ryukyu samurai, and is located in the downtown area of Miyako Island. Although it gets its fair share of tourists, the eatery is also popular with the locals. Private rooms of various size make it the perfect spot for gatherings big and small.


The interior is inspired by Okinawan samurai homes of yore.


The restaurant hasn’t always featured Miyako gyu—getting the island’s meat on the menu took time and patience.


“I went directly to the producers many times,” Mr. Muramoto explains. “Finally, I was approved.”


Miyaki gyu served over rice as nigiri.


The restaurant’s menu offers several cuts of Miyaki gyu, all of them top-grade A5 rank, prepared in a variety of ways. Start off with Ryukyu Dining Faimeal’s most popular item, Miyako Gyu No Nigiri—six pieces of thinly sliced beef draped over seasoned rice.


Though not all options are available every day, you’ll generally have a choice of tokusen (special-selection) lean meat, tokujo (first-class-plus) sirloin, or kiwami (finest) chateaubriand or tenderloin.


The shekwasha citrus brings out the flavor of the beef marvelously.


Begin by lightly dusting salt on a single portion, and then relish the deep flavors. Next, squeeze a dash of tart shekwasha juice onto a slice of beef. Shekwasha is a small, green citrus fruit you’ll come across often in Okinawa. Its unique, refreshing flavor provides a delicious contrast to the richness of the meat.


Touban-yakiniku is meat grilled on a ceramic plate.


Move on to the Touban-yakiniku menu and, depending on availability, choose from tenderloin, top sirloin, or chuck. Sizzle the morsels of beautifully marbled meat on the hot ceramic plate just briefly—the goal is for the meat to be slightly browned on both sides.


Be careful not to overdo it. Cook until just slightly browned.


Already seasoned with salt and pepper, take your first bite as is before adding shekwasha and, finally, shoga miso, a sauce of grated ginger and miso paste.


A thicker sauce takes you on a journey of flavor.


Luxuriate in the richness and texture of the island’s phantom beef. With Miyako gyu, even lean cuts are marbled and lusciously tender.


Savor the Bounty of the Surrounding Sea


Mr. Muramoto prepares ise ebi, ikizukuri style. Only the best seafood makes it back to the shop, with a fisherman for a chef.


Mr. Muramoto wears many hats. Besides being the owner and chef at Ryukyu Dining Faimeal, he’s also a working fisherman—and having a fisherman at the head of a restaurant means delicious things happen there.


Ise ebi served ikizukuri style.


Thanks to Mr. Muramoto’s practiced eye, the seafood served at Ryukyu Dining Faimeal is top class. The menu varies with the seasons, with highly sought-after kuruma ebi (Japanese tiger prawns) and mochi katsuo (skipjack tuna with the texture of glutinous-rice cakes) making an appearance when at their peak.


A touch of shoyu (soy sauce) is all the Ise ebi needs.


Should your visit coincide with the season for ise ebi (spiny lobster), which runs from July to the following March, be sure to order a plate of the crustacean served ikizukuri-style, where the ise ebi is prepared as sashimi and served in the shell of a lobster.


Ise ebi grilled to perfection.


Once you have finished the sashimi, enjoy the rest of the lobster cooked in one of three ways: akadashi (with red-miso soup), sakamushi (steamed in sake), or grilled. Springy in texture and full of flavor, ise ebi is the perfect ending to an exquisite meal.


Truly, Miyako Island impresses with its incredible cuisine, and at Ryukyu Dining Faimeal, you can enjoy it in style. Make your next adventure a trip to Miyako Island, and revel in the countless pleasures the island has to offer.



Contact Information


Ryukyu Dining Faimeal, Miyakojima

2F Pateidu Bldg, 171 Hirara-Nishizato, Miyakojima, Okinawa Prefecture 906-0012



How to Get There


Miyako Island is located in Okinawa Prefecture, roughly 300 kilometers southwest of the main island of Okinawa. It can be reached by a direct flight from Tokyo or Osaka. Access from most other domestic airports will require a transfer in Naha, the prefectural capital. Buses, rental cars, and rental bicycles are available foHear travel around the island. Ryukyu Dining Faimeal is located on Nishizato Dori in the downtown area of Miyako Island.


Recommended Itineraries


Miyako Island is a nature-lover’s paradise. Snorkelers and divers will find myriad fish to admire among the coral reefs, while those who prefer land-based activities will enjoy cycling, stargazing, and strolling through the island’s Miyakojima City Botanical Garden. Combine land and sea activities at any of the island’s incredible white-sand beaches. Other available activities include sea kayaking, jet skiing, and glass-bottom boat tours. Be sure to soak up island culture by visiting local izakaya (Japanese pubs) for an evening of music and good food. Discover another of Miyako Island’s industries by visiting the Yukishio Museum, which is dedicated to Miyako Island’s powdery, snow-white sea salt.


Related Links



Association of Miyakojima Sightseeing (English)

Ryukyu Dining Faimeal (Japanese)

​​​​Miyako Island (English)

​​​​Okinawa (English)






Featured Cuisine


Miyako gyu is wagyu from cattle raised on Miyako Island. The cattle are raised slowly, fed on straw, and benefit from the island’s mineral-rich groundwater. Meat from the cattle is prized for its melt-in-the-mouth texture as well as its rarity. As the cattle are bred in small numbers, Miyako gyu is available only at a small number of restaurants on the island.




    Author: Helen

    Helen hails from a small town in Central Canada. Shortly after completing an honors degree in history, a desire to study karate in its birthplace drew her to Japan. Since arriving in 2006, she has earned her second dan in Goju-ryu karate, fallen head-first into Japanese culture by way of cross-cultural marriage, and written about Japan for a variety of publications. She loves traveling by Shinkansen, curling up under a heated kotatsu blanket, and eating anything with mochi.











All information is correct as of the time of writing.
Please check for the latest information before you travel.


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