Ishigaki Island is one of the islands comprising Okinawa Prefecture, located 1,952 km (over 1,200 miles) southwest of Tokyo and rather close to Taiwan... not exactly the first place you'd guess would be creating a record-breaking beef kebob. Look closer, however, and you'll see there's a method to Ishigaki's madness and it's all about self-promotion.
Ishigaki, you see, is a vital link in Japan's treasured Wagyu beef tradition. That juicy, tender, well-marbled Kobe or Matsuzaka steak you're oohing & ahhing over likely came from a cow raised on Ishigaki Island and exported to the mainland, as are 80 percent of the island's calves.
“Ishigaki's beef (石垣牛 Ishigaki-gyū) is meltingly smooth and well worth the splurge for meat lovers,” according to Wikitravel, “although you'll generally be looking at around 5000 yen (about $65) for something approximating a decent-sized steak.”
Which brings us back to Ishigaki Island itself and the tale of the Godzilla-sized beef kebab. The island isn't very small (as islands go) and about 45,000 people live there.
The main industries, as it were, are tourism and cattle-raising. Could there possibly be a way to promote both, using local resources, so that Ishigaki Island could find itself on the tips of everyone's tongues? There was indeed, and credit local tourism agency official Shuntaro Kosasa with making it happen.
Kosasa learned that the world record length for beef kebabs was a mere 8.74 meters (28.675 ft), set by a group in Texas. Heck, the fine folks of Ishigaki Island could beat that standing on their heads! Organizers quickly set out to smash the Texans' teppanyaki triumph by creating a 25.37-meter (83.25 ft) long beef kebab. Why 25.37 meters? To commemorate the scheduled opening day of the new Ishigaki Island Airport, of course!
Delicious Ishigaki beef was sliced & diced in mass quantities, a stupendously sharp skewer was prepared, and... we'll just let Kosasa explain: “Just three days before the event, we were informed that people in Lebanon actually set a new record of 97.5 meters in August.”
Disaster? Hardly – unless you were an Ishigaki Island cow, perhaps. “We had to hurriedly prepare for four times more beef and cooking utensils and a skewer to make a kebab longer than 100 meters,” stated Kosasa.
Even with 1,700 islanders working diligently from noon to 5pm, Murphy's Law continued to frustrate organizers' best efforts. The skewer broke – twice – and had to be welded back together in-place. Things could have been worse, though, as wind and rain weren't factors when the mega-kebab finally hit the grill and an official representative from Guinness World Records (above, right) laid down the bright yellow tape measure: 107.6-meters (353 ft), a new world record!
Celebrations, as one might expect, were in order and why not? It's not as if anyone was going to let all that tender, grilled Ishigaki beef go to waste. About 15,000 islanders converged on the grill site and made short work of the long kebab. (via Mainichi Daily News, Kyodo News, Tengri News, and Bunnyeats)