The word meat in Japanese is niku (肉). In this reference, I offer simple definitions, translation, and pronunciation to help you learn more about meat in Japan (and the Japanese language).
Butaniku is the Japanese word for pork. It’s the combination of buta (pig) and niku (meat). It is pronounced “boo-
“The most popular type of meat by far in Japan is pork. Nearly as much pork is consumed as chicken and beef combined.” — The Japan Times
Butabara (豚バラ )
Chikin is the borrowed word for chicken. It is essentially the Japanese pronunciation of the English word.
For example, tori-kawa is a type of yakitori — it’s grilled chicken skin.
When shopping at a Japanese supermarket in the meats section, poultry is labeled with this kanji: 鶏肉 — and often they are sold by parts: momoniku (モモ肉), which is thigh meat, and muneniku (ムネ肉): breast meat.
Gyūniku means beef. It’s a combination word of gyū (cow) and niku (meat). It is pronounced “gyou-knee-coo” (click here to hear it). Just like pork, you will usually see gyūniku written in kanji, here is the hiragana: ぎゅうにく.
Beef can be quite pricey in supermarkets in Japan, especially the Japanese high-grade Kobe wagyū beef.
Beef tongue is incredibly popular at Japanese yakiniku restaurants. You’ll often see it listed at the #1 most popular on the menu.
Karubi is the boneless short-rib cut of beef. It’s soft, tender, and in high-end steakhouses/yakiniku restaurants, it is very well marbled with fat. So much so it melts in your mouth.
Many yakiniku shops will offer a variety of karubi choices since it is so popular. Each choice usually varies by quality and price.
It is pronounced “ka-lou-bee” and usually, you’ll see it written in katakana カルビ.
What is Wagyū?
Technically wagyū refers to Japanese cows. The wa denotes Japanese, and you already know gyū is beef.
As you can probably guess, this means not all wagyū is the super high-end, expensive beef you imagine. There is “normal” priced wagyū beef in Japan too.
If you’d like to learn all about wagyu check out this thorough article.
Is Kobe Beef Wagyū ?
I love the answer from Steak University (yes, that’s a real site). It sums up the answer perfectly:
“Every ribeye is a steak, but not all steaks are ribeyes. A similar rule applies to Kobe and Wagyu beef: Every Kobe steak is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe.“