What does Gyu-Kaku mean in English?

Gyu-Kaku is a popular Japanese barbecue restaurant chain that has expanded internationally. The name “Gyu-Kaku” is written in Japanese using the kanji characters 牛角, which literally translate to “cow horn” in English.

The Meaning Behind the Name Gyu-Kaku

So why is a Japanese barbecue restaurant named “cow horn”? This name actually has significant meaning behind it related to the style of barbecue Gyu-Kaku serves.

Gyu-Kaku specializes in a cooking method called yakiniku, which refers to grilling bite-sized meats and vegetables over a charcoal grill at your table. Yakiniku restaurants first became popular in Japan after World War II, when Korean barbecue techniques were adapted for the Japanese palate.

The name Gyu-Kaku references the shape of the grill used for yakiniku cooking. Traditional yakiniku grills have a dome shape and are typically made from cast iron or aluminum. The rounded grill surface resembles the shape of a cow’s horn, which is what “gyu-kaku” literally translates to.

So in English, Gyu-Kaku means “cow horn” as a nod to the characteristic grill used for yakiniku barbecue cooking. The name captures the essence of this style of Japanese barbecue in a clever and memorable way.

The History of Gyu-Kaku and Yakiniku

To fully understand the significance of the name, it helps to know more about the history of Gyu-Kaku and yakiniku culture in Japan.

Yakiniku has its origins in Korean barbecue, which was introduced to Japan during the country’s occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. After the war ended, many Koreans migrated to Japan and opened barbecue restaurants serving meats like bulgogi and galbi.

The first yakiniku restaurants emerged in Japan in the late 1940s after Japanese chefs adapted Korean barbecue techniques to suit local tastes. The term “yakiniku” combines the Japanese words for grilled or broiled meat (“yaki”) and meat (“niku”).

Yakiniku dining culture really took off in Japan during the postwar economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s. Restaurants serving barbecue cooked at the table on dome-shaped grills became fixtures across urban Japan, and yakiniku developed into a quintessentially Japanese dining experience.

Gyu-Kaku was founded in Tokyo in 1985 by chef Eishin Higashi, who wanted to create a more accessible and affordable yakiniku chain. The first Gyu-Kaku restaurant was designed like an American hamburger shop but serving freshly grilled yakiniku instead of burgers.

The chain rapidly expanded across Japan and later internationally, bringing Japanese-style barbecue to diners worldwide. Gyu-Kaku now has nearly 700 locations globally, including outlets in North America, Asia, and the Middle East.

Through the name Gyu-Kaku, the restaurant proudly conveys its specialty in yakiniku while hinting at the history of this cooking method. The name remains a fitting representation of Gyu-Kaku’s commitment to barbecue.

Why the Name Gyu-Kaku is Significant

There are a few key reasons why the name Gyu-Kaku is so significant for representing this restaurant chain:

  • It directly translates to “cow horn” which describes the shape of the grill and connects to yakiniku culture.
  • The name ties to the postwar origins of yakiniku using Korean barbecue techniques.
  • It reflects Gyu-Kaku’s specialty in barbecue including high quality beef.
  • The imagery and sound of “gyu-kaku” is memorable and catchy.
  • The name differentiates Gyu-Kaku barbecue from other Japanese grill-it-yourself dining like shabu-shabu hot pot.

Ultimately, Gyu-Kaku chose its name wisely to highlight its brand identity. The connection between the words “gyu-kaku” and the restaurant’s focus on beef barbecue makes the meaning clear, even for English speakers unfamiliar with Japanese.

How Gyu-Kaku Brought Yakiniku Overseas

Gyu-Kaku has played a leading role in spreading yakiniku barbecue dining culture beyond Japan. The chain now proudly represents Japanese cuisine and grilling techniques worldwide.

Gyu-Kaku opened its first international location in Hong Kong in 1988. Expanding overseas brought some challenges adapting menus and service for non-Japanese customers unfamiliar with yakiniku traditions.

For example, the chain introduced more beef options and eating utensils like forks to accommodate overseas diners. Gyu-Kaku also developed illustrated menus and added tabletop grilling instructions so first-time patrons could easily navigate the barbecue experience.

Gyu-Kaku arrived in the United States with its first California location in 1999. It initially marketed itself as a trendy hotspot and hideaway for Hollywood celebrities to attract American diners.

Year Major Gyu-Kaku International Expansion
1988 First overseas location opens in Hong Kong
1999 Launches first US restaurant in California
2005 Expands to over 100 overseas locations in Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and the US
2009 Enters Middle East market with location in Dubai
2013 Opens first Canada restaurant in Vancouver

Today, Gyu-Kaku operates restaurants across the United States, Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. It successfully made yakiniku part of the global culinary landscape.

The company plans to continue expanding into new markets, with a recent focus on China and Europe. Bringing Gyu-Kaku’s authentic yet accessible yakiniku experience to new regions helps more people discover the pleasures of Japanese barbecue.


The name Gyu-Kaku offers English speakers a succinct glimpse into the restaurant’s specialty in Japanese barbecue. While the literal translation “cow horn” may seem odd at first, it ingeniously captures the chain’s origins and grilling process.

Gyu-Kaku’s commitment to yakiniku dining is clear from its name to the servers cooking sizzling beef and vegetables on dome-shaped grills. The name connects the experience at these restaurants to the postwar emergence of Japanese barbecue.

As Gyu-Kaku expands globally, the meaning behind its name also travels worldwide. Millions of new diners start their yakiniku journey by hearing the words “gyu-kaku” and seeing the cow horn-shaped grill delivered to their table.

So next time you visit a Gyu-Kaku restaurant, appreciate the long history and tradition wrapped up in its fun, memorable name. When you hear “gyu-kaku”, you know you’re in for an authentic and interactive barbecue meal cooked just how you like it.

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