lundi 10 août 2015

Encountering the father of modern tenkara

After leaving Yamano-san I went to Kyoto that I visited under thunderstorms and rain which did not make the former capital of Japan less interesting. I visited the sites that interested me early in the morning and late in the evening after the rain stopped. The rainy season has been longer than usual this year and I had to deal with the vagaries of weather during my stay in Japan. I had the chance to stay very close to the most interesting sights of the town so I was not going to let the rain stop me.

After two spent visiting the town and getting to know some of its inhabitants I did meet Yoshiaki Hashimoto, a member of the Harima tenkara club, on the tiny Toji-in station platform.

After a short drive we arrived in residential area where we were awaited by someone whom I would not have not met without the help of Eiji Yamakawa who have known him for many years: Hiromichi Fuji. After introducing ourselves to each other Fuji-sensei invited the both of us to follow him in his workshop. We started talking about tenkara of course while drinking a delicious cup of black coffee. The conversation was warm, relaxed and very natural because Fuji-sensei is kindness made man. 

As we discussed the lines that Fuji-sensei still manufactures today for Nissin I pointed out that these lines, compared to any I have tried so far, are the only ones that really differentiate from one another. Fuji-sensei asked me if I would be interested to see him making some lines and have his explanations at each step of the process, it would be more interesting than a long and boring theoretical speech he said. I obviously  accepted!

First the machine used by Fuji-sensei is unique, it is unlikely any tenkara lines furling machine existing elsewhere, and this for one simple reason: he designed it by himself.

With the explanations and the demo of the master I learned the way he makes furled tenkara lines which can have different actions. I will not describe here the process in detail because it is not to me to do it but to Fuji-sensei who, when the time will have come, will do what it takes to transmit his knowledge of tenkara lines furling. From what I have seen him do I was able to understand what makes his tenkara lines so different than any other furled on the market today and so well adapted to his sutebari.  
After making a couple of lines Fuji-sensei suggested that we try them, proposal that Hashimoto-san and I accepted with enthusiasm. We had planned to go fishing together the day of our meeting but unfortunately Fuji-sensei broke his wrist during a fishing outing a few days before my arrival in Japan. Fuji-sensei is not only a great angler with a great experience in line furling, rod designing and fly-tying he is also a very good teacher who knows how to be understood despite the language barrier. The picture below is the perfect example of a missed cast with projected forearm that inevitable results in your line hitting the water.


Fuji-sensei first asked to reproduce this bad cast which I did and then he demonstrated us the good cast to obtain the best possible result with his lines and then we did see perfectly deploying line with perfect loops. One can obtain very delicate and accurate casts with any of these lines, whatever it is 12 or 20 feet long, if he strokes the rod the good way. These lines and this casting style have been refined for several decades so there is no wonder why they are the best one can use for a delicate fly presentation. It was a memorable moment to watch Fuji-sensei cast in his personal style which perfectly matches his tenkara technique. Hashimoto-san and I took over under the watchful eyes of the master. The rain became harder and we decided to go back to the workshop. 

Back in the workshop the conversation slipped from tenkara casting to kebari tying, a domain in which Fuji-sensei excels. He is not only a rod designer, a tenkara line manufacturer but also a very talented and productive fly tier as he still ties ALL the kebari sold by Nissin today. 

Fuji-sensei was the first to sit behind the vise, needless to say that I instantly knew that I waas dealing with a very experienced fly tier. His tying is very fast because the gestures economy is at a very high level. Hashimoto-san and I will then take place behind the vise of the master and after each of us had tied a kebari we discussed the possible use of this pattern. 

The first time I did sit behind Fuji-sensei's vise I noticed that it was fixed to the table in a very low position which could be be a disadvantage because I am tall but when I started tying the first kebari I understood that this position which leaves very few space under the vise is a good way to avoid unnecessary ample gestures. Once again something refined by a long experience.

We did spend a part of the afternoon tying kebari and sharing our viewpoints about the evolution of kebari through out time, sasoi techniques and many other topics encompassing our passion. It is always rewarding to meet very experienced anglers who have remained simple and true to themselves, this is really what tears apart the common "experts" and the truly great fishermen. 
At about seven o'clock we left Fuji sensei's workshop to have a dinner of soba noodles in a local restaurant and go on talking about tenkara. 
I can not thank enough Fuji sensei for welcoming me in his workshop and being kind to share a little bit of his knowledge with me. 

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