In rarity, price, and marbling, Mishima beef (見島牛) is regarded as superior than the now not-so-exotic Kobe beef. Mishima cows* are thoroughbred in Japan; they have not crossed with European breeds because the island on which they graze has existed in relative isolation. Mishima (見島) is a small island off the Southern sloping end of Honshu, in the Sea of Japan.
The cattle of this island have lived isolation from other Japanese cattle breeds for about 200 years, and either because of their genetic purity, their limited number, or meat quality, a head of mishima cattle can ring up a substantial multi-digit figure shaming Kobe beef to the discount aisle.
Some regard Mishima beef as the best Japan has to offer, and it is a difficult find (at least the genuine Mishima beef anyway), even in Japan. The meat, like Kobe beef, features extensive marbling, and has the succulency and melt-in-your-mouth properties that is oh so memorable, but on an entirely different level. The veins of fat laced in the beef have a delicate flavour, and is said to lend the meat a distinct sweetness. However, the meat only sets up the potential for a velvety, subtly rich experience for our taste buds—it comes down to expert preparation by the right chef to bring out the beef’s flavourful character. And rightly so, for something so rare, it almost seems natural for the beef to be paired with superb cooking techniques, fitting of its quality. Too much heat and the fat in the meat will lose its integrity.
On a side note, to further denounce the exoticness (in case you doubt the existence of this word, click here) of Kobe beef: In the late 1990s (before the Japanese cattle import sanction in 2003), Kobe cattle rearing has been outsourced from Japan largely to ranchers in the United States. The Wagyu cattle (Kobe cows* are a type of black Wagyu, from Taijima) raised overseas were more cost-effective for the Japanese beef producers, and were shipped back to Kobe for slaughter so they can still be classed as legitimate Kobe grade meat. However, as this shows, some Kobe cattle don’t actually spend very much time in Japan.
There are also Wagyu cattle that are raised and slaughtered in the U.S., and these arguable counterfeits sometimes appear on menus as Kobe beef implying a transnational flight; however, it might just be that the cuts come from the very same continent. While the American alternative cannot be classified as Kobe beef, taste and meat quality is sometimes said to be on par (or even superior) than the Japanese original.
*kindly turn a blind eye to my “mis”terming of ‘cows’ as synonymous with cattle