When river peak debuted the Kiwami 33 and 38 tenkara rods in 2021, they were generally well received by those that fished them. The rods were designed to reproduce the feel and slower action of a traditional Japanese bamboo (wazao) rod, but using modern materials to make them as light and air-resistant as possible.
With the addition of the Kiwami 45 Honryu tenkara rod in 2023, there is now a full “family” of Kiwami rods that cater to any angler’s preference from headwaters to mainstream. As such, we thought it would be a perfect time to do an official Rod Report and review on all three models.
YouTube Rod Report
Before we continue with this article, we also created a YouTube Rod Report on the river peak Kiwami rods. It not only covers all of the information in this post, but also includes additional visuals and narrative. It’s worth checking out!
Now back to the article…
Unboxing & First Impressions
Since the three Kiwami rods we’re covering are essentially the same rod, just in different sizes, the description of the rods’ physical appearance below applies to each model.
Upon unboxing these rods, the river peak Kiwami models stand out visually from other popular rod models that are made in Japan… and quite frankly, anywhere else. While they share similar characteristics of having clean cosmetics and above average fit and finish, the first thing you’ll notice is they just look different.
It’s hard to miss that the carbon fiber blanks appear to be of thicker wall and wider diameter, and even more striking, a ribbed appearance (for the angler’s pleasure?) running down the length of the majority of the sections. river peak notes on their website that the body of the rod is wrapped with carbon thread to create an uneven surface to minimize vibration and oscillation allowing the angler to accurately cast the fly with a level line. It’s a very different look, one that some may like, and others may not.
The Kiwami rods come with cloth rod sock with string closure. There is no rod tube, nor rectangular retail packaging. Very simple Japanese kanji and river peak branding in white adorn the glossy black blank and numerically display the rod’s length in decimeters, either 33, 38, or 45.
Unlike most other rods, none of the exterior hardware is metal. The Kiwami’s tip cap is all wood, without the typical rubber insert, and the end cap at the bottom of the handle is a rounded wooden knob with a rubber stopper and threaded plastic insert. The end cap does screw into a “socket” on the interior of the handle, but you’d never know it by looking at it.
The cylindrical grip is made of of above average cork and is the same on both the 33 and 38 models. Those grips are a little shorter than most rods of similar length at only 9 inches. The larger 45 version does have a slightly beefier 11.5 inch grip, but I’d say all three suffer from short grip syndrome. Additionally, they are devoid of contour which may be a turn off to some. It took me a little while to get used to, but they’ve grown on me. Rather than having a metal winding check, the cork grip rounds off at each end to meet the blank cleanly.
In trading emails with river peak, they disclosed to us that the first 4 sections (from the tip) are identical for all 3 models. This gives the the 45 a much finer tip than many other “big water/big fish” tenkara rods. It is only as you move down the rods do the sections begin to differentiate themselves from each other.
Finally, the lillian is a simple length of cord, that is glued to the rod’s tip. It does not feature a microswivel and is not factory knotted. The absence of both allow the rod to be fully disassembled for cleaning and drying.
(I would note that the lillian is a bit on the short side, which isn’t a huge deal, but since the rod tip is so fine it does make me extra cautious when attaching and removing the line. There’s just not as much “give” and room for error with a shorter lillian. )
The measurables of the river peak Kiwami are fairly similar for all 3 rods & lengths. The rods are generally light for their size class and exhibit a softer, fuller flex. As one might expect, the 33, (the smallest rod) is the stiffest of the three, but still softer and slower than many rods. I took some pictures (with the aid of the beer fridge in my garage) if you want to actually see the flex profile of each rod.
|Fully Extended Lengths||33|
|329 cm / 10.8 feet|
373 cm / 12.3 feet
445 cm / 14.6 feet
|Nested Length (with cap)||33|
|59 cm / 23.2 inches|
59 cm / 23.2 inches
65 cm / 25.5 inches
|Cork Grip Length||33|
|23 cm / 9.1 inches|
23 cm / 9.1 inches
29 cm / 11.5 inches
|Cork Grip Circumference||33|
|7 cm / 2.8 inches|
7 cm / 2.8 inches
8 cm / 3.1 inches
|Weight (without cap)||33|
|56 g / 2.0 ounces|
66 g / 2.3 ounces
102 g / 3.6 ounces
|4.56 / 6:4 Moderate Mid Flex|
4.29 / 5:5 Slow Full Flex
4.27 / 5:5 Slow Full Flex
OK, here’s where the rubber meets the road. I have fished all 3 models of the Kiwami and I think my preference (in order) is the 33, 45, & 38.
The shortest 33 model is a great blend of lightness in hand and fun factor. Its casting feel and slower hookset is noticably different than other rods. It’s a great rod for small, mountain trout and traditional tenkara (unweighted wet fly) fishing.
The other two rods (38 & 45) are strikingly similar in feel despite having a 2 foot difference in length. Both feel quite a bit heavier and are slower (and honestly sloppier) casters than the 33, but I think I give the 45 the nod over the 38. While there’s really nothing “wrong” with the 38, it’s just not that much longer to make me pick it up over the superior feeling 33.
In addition to the extra length, the 45 “honryu” edition at almost 15 feet is still very soft. I was actually surprised by how much it flexed while fighting even palm-sized bluegill (pictured below). I can’t imagine how wild it would be on significantly larger fish. That wild card factor makes the rod unique enough to maintain a spot in my quiver.
Knowing other anglers have been fishing the Kiwami series of rods in different environments, I reached out to a few to provide their thoughts on these rods.
“I have the 33 and well, it’s really a different kind of rod. Doesn’t really correct its rotation all that quickly, but it was made to simulate what a wazao rod would feel like. With that it mind it performs manipulation technique admirably well and makes even small fish seem like great battles. I enjoy my Kiwami for small streams and have caught some surprise bigger browns as well on it. It’s fun, feels well put together, and is affordable. What’s not to like?”
“Everyone likes a different type of rod, my preference may be different than yours. For point of reference my favorite rod is the Nissin Air Stage Fujiryu 330 in the 5:5 flex. My primary type of fishing is high mountain streams with unweighted flies so the Kiwami sounded like a good backup for my Nissin. I have been fishing the Kiwami 33 alongside my Nissin for about 3 months now, so I think I can give you a good snapshot of how it performs.
Let me start with the dislikes, mostly minor stuff, the lilian is very short. Not a big issue, I changed it out, took about 10 minutes. The handle is very narrow, I have small hands and it felt small. If you are used to rods with no cork or foam you may like it, I did not so I made a new handle. But you really want to know how it fishes.
If you like soft, full flex rods that you can cast unweighted flies all day at a very reasonable price, this is it. I would say this is a 6:4 flex on the Nissin scale. This is perfect for backcountry brookies but I have caught wild rainbows up to 14 inches, it just took some finesse. My opinion is you can’t go wrong here.”
“I’m an avid tenkara angler, so I immediately have taken both (33 & 38) to the river and I’ve spent a wonderful summer fishing with them for trout here in my hometown Verona, Italy and in northern Sweden during the summer. The Kiwami rods are designed with the idea to replicate the feeling of a bamboo rod, while maintaining the lightness of our always beloved carbon fiber. Long story short: they absolutely do it!
The action feels like a classic 6:4, with extra flexibility lightly perceptible during the cast, and it really gives you something new during the fight. The lovely curve they create during the fight is a joy for the eye, but it’s mostly the feeling of the bending starting right between your fingers that will project you straight into the fight. It’s in my opinion a totally different feeling and I’m captured by it.
I’m desperately in love with both of them, always having them in my tod tube, alongside the other super light rods that are mostly collecting dust, to be honest.”
“I like this rod. I think that river peak has made a very nice tenkara rod that fulfills its goals perfectly. It is an excellent rod for Japanese-style tenkara. It casts really well, is very lightweight, has a pleasant full flex action profile, and is reasonably priced. I also like the 380 cm length. It’s the perfect length for streams where you need just a little more reach but don’t need a 390-400 cm rod. I’d like to see more 380 cm rods.
So, if you are in the market for a very well built JDM full flex tenkara rod, then consider the river peak Kiwami tenkara 38. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!” (See Tom’s full review on Teton Tenkara HERE)
How Do I Buy One?
At the time of writing, the various river peak Kiwami rods are selling with retails between $179.99 and $249.99 on Tenkara Adventure Outfitters (TAO) website. TAO is the exclusive North American dealer of river peak rods and the best place to get long term service should you have a mishap.
Tenkara Angler also lists the Kiwami rods in our curated Gear Shop alongside other rods with similar classifications should you want to get a broader view of what is currently available.
The river peak Kiwami series of tenkara rods have a lot going for them. Quality builds, eye-pleasing cosmetics, nice componentry, and they are generally very fun to fish, particularly when manipulating unweighted flies. Plus, they come in three lengths conducive to fishing any part of the watershed, from headwaters to mainstream.
Those that prefer a bit stiffer and responsive casting rod will probably not like the action of these rods which is designed to mimic the slower, fuller flex of traditional Japanese bamboo (wazao) rods. But those seeking something “different” at a generally affordable pricepoint will likely enjoy the Kiwami. It’s honestly a rod family that is difficult to describe until you fish them yourself. Should you choose to give a Kiwami a shot, let us know what you think in the comments below!
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