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Trends in Japanese Tenkara

Article by Satsuki Tanaka

Hello American tenkara fans, my name is Satsuki Tanaka.

I am one of the tenkara anglers in Japan. I made a “How to Tenkara” video called Master Tenkara with Dr. Hisao Ishigaki.

Satsuki Tanaka - Trends in Japanese Tenkara - Master Tenkara

At this time, I would like to tell you about the latest tenkara situation in Japan by making full use of Google translate!

Recent Trends in Japanese Tenkara

Recent trends in Japanese tenkara include both technological evolution and changes to how anglers enjoy the sport.

Regarding technology, I feel that the evolution of fishing methods is occurring in generations younger than the more famous tenkara anglers such as Yuzo Sebata, Hisao Ishigaki, and Masami Sakakibara, who are familiar in the United States. However, this cannot be easily conveyed by Google translate, so I will stop this time. (^^;

In this article, I will instead report on the changes on how anglers are enjoying tenkara in Japan.

Satsuki Tanaka - Trends in Japanese Tenkara - Headwaters

Japanese tenkara in the last few years has consisted of:

  • Traditional style of tenkara fishing in mountain streams
  • A style to enjoy in the headwaters of the mountain along with mountain and shower climbing

They are the main styles, and the second is especially attracting much attention. It is frequently introduced in magazines.

Satsuki Tanaka - Trends in Japanese Tenkara - Canyon

Headwaters Tenkara

There are few trout in the mountain stream area of ​​Japan, making it difficult to fish. So anglers instead travel to the headwater area, not only to find fish, but as a form of adventure.

As an example, we will climb waterfalls as pictured in this article to enter the headwaters. Due to the small number of tools unique to tenkara, they do not get in the way while climbing.

After climbing the waterfall, check the route on the map, and follow the trail without a road, aiming for a headwater that no one else can enter. We walk with the dream of “a big fish in the future!”

Then, at the destination, set up a tent on the riverbank and head to begin tenkara fishing.

Satsuki Tanaka - Trends in Japanese Tenkara - Boulders

Of course, there are times when you won’t catch fish even after you spend so much effort entering the headwaters.

However, there is a high probability that you will be able to catch an overwhelming amount of fish. Many more than if you entered a place that may be accessible by car. And as you can see, the trout are beautiful!

A simple tenkara set up is the best way to go deep into the mountains and fish. It can even be combined with backcountry skiing! The photo shows skiing from the top of the mountain, and fishing tenkara from the skis.

Satsuki Tanaka - Trends in Japanese Tenkara - Skiing

With this trend, the number of people who have longed for the source and started tenkara fishing has increased considerably.

For reference, Mr. Sebata was a pioneer who has entered many headwater areas and continued to disseminate information since the time when tenkara at the headwaters was not common.

Come Fishing in Japan

Fishing in 2020 was difficult due to COVID-19, but if you have a chance, please come to the headwaters of Japan. There are still few, but I think that the number of headwaters tenkara guides will increase in the future.

Beautiful headwaters and strong trout are waiting for you!

Satsuki Tanaka - Trends in Japanese Tenkara - Iwana

Satsuki Tanaka is a Japanese outdoors enthusiast with interests in bouldering, alpine climbing, yachting, backcountry exploration, woodworking, and of course tenkara. Through his work with the ClearWater Project, he is championing catch & release fishing on the Dando River, as well as maintaining a fishing ticketing agency and associated magazine website that promotes all types of fishing in mountain streams.

To read additional articles from the Tenkara Angler 2020 Fall Festival, click HERE.

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  1. A delightful article. Inspiring! While it’s sad what has happened to the lower waters there (and that the US is likely following suit), I’m glad the next generations are “working upstream,” and also working to preserve the outdoors and to promote adventures!

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