After leaving Sebata-san and my genryu fellows I did go to Kawaguchi where Yamano-san and his wife were waiting for me. We could unfortunately not meet when they did come in France last winter so I wanted to take advantage of my trip to Japan to meet Yamano-san, a very talented craftsman who makes absolutely amazing bamboo rods. I think his creations are truly artworks.
We spent a great evening to get acquainted, talking about tenkara, cuisine, bamboo as well as architecture and wine. Before leaving Yamano-san invited me to visit his shop and workshop the next morning.
Yamano-san introduced me to the different types of bamboo rods he makes, of course tenkara and keiryu rods but he also makes some for tanago, hera. He does not only makes rods for fixed line fishing but also freshwater and saltwater spinning and casting rods. I have been amazed by the incredible beauty of every rod in the shop.
I did ask a lot of questions to Yamano-san about the process he follows to make his bamboo rods as it was a unique opportunity to learn from someone who really masters this process. Yamano-san was kind enough to answer my many questions and I have learned a lot about the making of bamboo tenkara rods.
Yamano-san thought that nothing is better to learn than seeing a craftsman at work did for me a demo of the main steps of his process to make a bamboo tenkara rod. After choosing a section of bamboo he started straightening it.
I had already seen this operation being performed on several videos but I did not realize the speed with which this operation was performed. Yamano-san handed me the bamboo section and it was perfectly straight. My host invited me to take his place and try to repeat the same operation...
Then we went to the workshop which is usually not open to the public.
Seeing several boxes of gimlets opened I asked my host to explain me the use of these tools and rather giving a theoretical answer to me Yamano-san performed this step of the process on a bamboo section. The goal of this step is to remove matter from the inside of the bamboo section to make it light enough to be used as a fishing rod section.
If the principle of this operation is simple, its proper application still requires training as I was realizing. The blade of the gimlet used here is very short and the machine has no guides. I am grateful that Yamano-san made me try because it was a good way to realize the effort it takes to properly work bamboo in rules.
The last step of the processus to make a bamboo rod is to lacquer the sections joints and Yamano-san executes this step in the very traditional way with a small brush made of human hair. This step of the process is, in my opinion, the most delicate of the whole process and I watched admiringly Yamano-san do this. He uses urushi but also may use other traditional techniques and noble materials such as maki-e or raden.
I did not test this step because I did not want to waste a piece of bamboo neither urushi which is a rare and very expensive material. I asked Yamano-san how many years were in his opinion necessary to master the complete process and he answered me that ten years of learning and training were necessary to be able to produce rods that match anglers requests. I am really happy to have had the opportunity to meet a craftsman which such a talent who is willing to make people discover his work and creations.
These beautiful handles, that would perfectly fit on a tenkara rod, are some of the many examples of the magnificent creations of Yamano-san.
I ended my visit by the attic where Yamano-san stocks thirty different kinds of bamboo that will take five to years to perfectly dry before being usable for fishing rods and other products such as rods handles, rod holders, creels, etc.
As I suspected when manipulating different keiryu and tenkara rods and feeling their action a craftsman such as Yamano-san combines different kinds of bamboo in the same rod to obtain rods with different actions.
If any of you is looking for a high quality bamboo tenkara rod made by a talented craftsman who masters the job like very few are able to you can get in touch with Yamano-san via his website saosyosaku.com because this is one of the best addresses to know.