Interview with Toshiro Todoroki


Interview with Toshiro Todoroki

I’m a tenkara fisherman living in the desert southwest part of the United States. Here in Phoenix, Arizona, there is very little running water. We have urban ponds and desert lakes but I have to travel to fish tenkara in mountain streams. My interest is insatiable and I generate further interest from writing and sharing tenkara on the Internet. The fact that I live so far away from a trout stream is a burden and it also is a reason why I strive to meet other tenkara fisher people. I have a constant desire to interact, to learn, share and be a part of something bigger than my home where my tying bench is, my rod rack and the collection of tenkara angler’s kebari from around the world.

Like many of the people that I meet through interactions on the Internet, I also meet Todorok-san this way. My web site www.tenkara-fisher.com had gone through a change and I dropped the forum portion of the site whereas https://discourse.10colorstenkara.com filled in the missing forum with several of the members of my old forum. Todoroki-san and I meet there and started to interact and contribute together on different tenkara subjects.

I have really enjoyed learning more about tenkara from our conversations.

Todoroki-san offered to send kebari to me which I accepted (I like collecting and fishing kebari from my friends) and I will use them this next season on a couple of my favorite streams. He uses a variety of hooks and makes many different kebari that are quite aesthetic, pleasing to a fisherman. As a fly tyer, I am also learning different styles of tying from him.

I think this is a good place to start the interview, I am excited to get started.

Adam: Welcome Todoroki-san! Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I appreciate you for interacting with us in the English language which is good for the outside of Japan community and I appreciate the skill that it takes to do this and as I said, you do it well.

Toshiro Todoroki: Thank you for offering an interview.

Sorry for poor English.

I also was a member of www.tenkara-fisher.com

But being able to share information on the web is a happy feeling

I felt very lonely when Adam's website was closed but I was very happy to receive a restart from David Walker of 10 color tenkara (https://discourse.10colorstenkara.com/)

I think that I got a good opportunity to review tenkara for myself


Adam: You are very kind and I appreciate your sharing the topic of tenkara fishing. If you do not mind, I would like to make our interview a little bit more back and forth. For our readers, the way that I make the interview is to write it in one piece, imagining what the subject will answer to give the interview “flow” so offering you to ask questions adds in a little bit more complexity in thinking. I know you will do well with this as I have conversed with you a little before we have written this conversational article. Your English is good, I hope that I do not confuse you.

Toshiro Todoroki: I was sympathizing very much with Adam's tenkara website's knowledge and way of thinking Mr. Adam knowledge and idea of tenkara fishing is surprised to be richer than Japanese general tenkara fisherman.

"Do the quest for your tenkara fishing came from somewhere?"

Adam: Yes, the quest comes from searching for the magic of being a child. Fishing is a way for me to be young again. Tenkara is very much like how I started fishing as a child, with a bamboo rod on a stream, rod, line and a hook. From there I got into fly fishing, as an adult, I started to create fly rods from bamboo, and I found out about tenkara, very high performance rods, all the attributes of fishing that I enjoy.

My desire to fish tenkara comes from wanting to return to childhood.

Toshiro Todoroki: I am impressed with your research against tenkara

"Is there anything I can cooperate with?"

Adam: Absolutely. As we get further into the interview, I speak a little bit about how I look at tenkara fishing outside of Japan. But to preface, the series of interviews that I have done with Japanese tenkara anglers is to get the perspective of Japanese tenkara. 

I quit fly fishing.

I was specializing in small stream fly fishing for many years but I quit it to specialize in tenkara. 

I like where it started, the history, the practitioners and experts there but I have my own perspective. I'm one of the community yet I am not a follower, I do it in parallel and I contribute to it.

You can help me by your influence. I like the Japanese influence but I'm definitely going to practice it in America, my own way. 

I like the term, ten colors of tenkara. There are actually more colors than that, as many as there are people practicing it.

Adam: I am fishing tenkara going on my ninth year, no fly fishing, only tenkara. I have written interviews and articles with many tenkara experts in Japan and have discussed quite a bit about all different genres of tenkara. I am 57 years old and I was fly fishing small streams since I was a child. I quit fly fishing to learn tenkara knowing that I could come back to it if I wanted. At first this was a difficult thing to do but as I gained knowledge and skills, tenkara not only replaced my fly fishing, it satisfied my desire so much more, I still have not had the urge to do it. I knew if I continued to fly fish AND do tenkara, I would not learn the fine details, my focus would not be as sharp and I would not be able to draw the line between the two. To the effect of stopping fly fishing and only doing tenkara, it has not been hard and I know I’ve made a good decision for me and what I do.

The method of tenkara is very effective in mountain streams and that is where I specialized my own fly fishing for so many years before I found out about it.

“Todoroki-san, can you give us a look into your fishing as you practice it right now? What form of fishing do you do? Do you tye kebari and fly mostly for hobby or for fishing or both? How does your tying go with your fishing?”

Toshiro Todoroki: My tenkara fishing is a fishing way that has been done in the middle mountainous region of Japan.

I like fishing with kebari and FLY and so I learned about FLY used for fly fishing

I want to see the movements of fish reacting slowly to kebari so I will try various kinds of kebari


Adam: I like to get to know more about the tenkara angler that I am interviewing. Sometimes we are the same age, family, our work, who taught us fishing…

“Where do you live? How old are you? How long you have been fishing tenkara?”

Toshiro Todoroki: I am 59 years old and I live in Nagano city, Nagano prefecture

I live a mountain stream for about an hour by car.

Tenkara fishing experience because is from Azumino city of childhood is long

Adam: This part of the interviews that I do is my favorite. The background of tenkara anglers is always interesting. Even those who think they are boring or mundane, there is usually another interest that goes along with tenkara.

“Do you have any other interests besides fishing? Are you passionate about your job? Any other hobbies?”

Toshiro Todoroki: I went around a variety of sightseeing spots with sales of Kirin Brewery but now I am retiring and agriculture. My family is eating it because I am growing vegetables, rice and fruits. Since I went around the various places, I taught kebari from a local kebari fisherman. I like fishing, but I feel comfortable space for me in the mountains.

Adam: I am 57 years old, my other interests that I do are less and less, I pretty much just do fishing and hiking with a little bit of backpacking. I used to surf the mountain gullies with my snow surfboard, I did cross country hang gliding, hike and fly paragliding, I flew powered hang gliders and grew up skateboarding and surfing, I love the ocean. But now I just chill and travel with my tenkara…

Change in my life is a constant but I have always fly fished. I used to fly fish in mountain streams with really light and long fly rods ever before I found out about tenkara. That is actually how I meet Yoshikazu Fujioka, through our common love of fly fishing in the mountain environment. I was making a small stream fly fishing web site in the mid 90’s and Fujioka-san was reading it. He also started his own and we shared in each other’s adventures.

I finally got to meet Fujioka-san at the 2015 Tenkara Summit in Estes Park Colorado. He is a kind and gentle soul, he knows a lot about tenkara and kebari.

“Do you know about Fujioka’san and his reference web site?”

Toshiro Todoroki: 藤岡美和さん

I feel that it is a wonderful website full of enthusiasm and I am impressed that I explain it to overseas.


Adam: Fujioka-san is my oldest reference to tenkara and Japanese fishing in general. I found out about sawanobori from him too. But I found out a lot about tenkara specialists in Japan from Daniel Galhardo at Tenkara USA when I got my first tenkara rod from him. I’m nearly twice as old as Daniel and have been fishing a lot longer than he has but I’ve learned so much from him about tenkara.

Now I help him tell the story of tenkara.

For me, this is an honor.

He introduced me to Masami Sakakibara and Hisao Ishigaki as well as Yuzo Sebata and many other famous anglers. He also shared his lessons, his knowledge to a wide audience of English speaking tenkara enthusiasts through his different forms of media sharing. I’m grateful for Daniel-san’s introduction to these great tenkara anglers.

In 2009 when I got my first tenkara rod from Daniel-san, I was using the Internet to research tenkara. I do not speak Japanese so my searches where incomplete yet I was able to find out quite a bit about the method, the resources and the anglers that practiced it in Japan. With the help of my Japanese friends, I began to purchase books on tenkara and was lead to further resources.

I found out about Hiromichi Fuji and Soseki Yamamoto from other Japanese tenkara anglers like Eiji Yamakawa. Soseki Yamamoto was a prolific Keiryu author/enthusiast that detailed quite a bit about tenkara in his books. On my own, I found out about Kazuya Shimoda and his style of fishing tenkara. Shimoda-san had a film crew that produced tenkara videos and I must say that Shimoda-san has greatly influenced my own learning about tenkara as well as the other anglers that I have mentioned.

My point is that the community in Japan, even though it is very small is quite broad in scope of practicing tenkara. Many different schools of practice, many teachers and I believe my efforts to show this wide audience of Japanese tenkara enthusiasts has been good but there is always room for improvement.

“Todoroki-san, there are many Japanese tenkara enthusiasts young and old, some are famous, others are not but still important to tenkara, Gyoshin Suzuki is just another one that I believe has been forgotten. Keigu Horie is another school that has not seen much light in the English speaking world. Will you comment on the tenkara community in Japan, young and old? Have we missed anyone? Is there much more history of Japanese tenkara available to us?”

Toshiro Todoroki: I feel that the current tenkara fishing and the old kebari fishing are different things

Although both are traditional cultures, kebari fishing which is done in the northern part of central mountainous area is peculiar

About sakasa-kebari, I feel that Mr. Masao Migita (右田政夫) is the best worker

About tenkara - line, I feel that Mr. Hiromichi Fuji (冨士弘道) was developed epoch-making

The name itself of tenkara fishing is the name that has been spread by Mr. Soseki Yamamoto (山本素石) in the 1950s

Before that it was commonly called kebari-turi (毛鉤釣り)


Adam: I’m very appreciative of your time here and I want you to know that I have the greatest respect for this Japanese method of fly fishing.

Early on, I learned quite a bit from Masami Sakakibara, his enthusiasm for helping non-Japanese tenkara anglers is big. In an interview that I have done with him, I asked him to tell me what tenkara is and his answer regarding how once tenkara has left Japan was eloquent.

Masami Tenkarano-oni Sakakibara: I think Tenkara is about fishing in the beautiful mountain stream of Japan, for our beautiful native trout which inhabit them. Yet today, Tenkara seems to have spread to the US, Europe and more. I’m sure that they too have beautiful rivers and streams, with beautiful trout or other fish which inhabit them. Hence once Tenkara has left Japan, or it enters another country and culture, people who pick up a Tenkara rod there have the right and obligation to decide what Tenkara is for them. It is certainly not for me to decide.

“Can you tell me, what is your definition of tenkara?”

Toshiro Todoroki: Is a compass and a signpost to guide me to the mountain and mountain stream

Adam: I’m an American, I learned about tenkara from an American and a deeper understanding of it from the Japanese but I’ve learned from both cultures.

I’ve decided to help others understand that tenkara came from Japan but now, it is outside of Japan and my point of view is more like Masami Sakakibara’s.

I know what it is and I do it myself but that is where my tenkara ends and yours begins. Our definitions can overlap or join but ultimately, it is for you to decide the way you practice your fishing.


“Is there a difference between kebari and fly?”

Toshiro Todoroki: In the early 1960s it had made a FLY for export in Nagano Prefecture Azumino City

Fly fishing itself was also introduced earlier so I think that it affected kebari as well

Since Nagano prefecture was a summer resort for diplomats and from overseas person, fly fishing has been taking place for old time

In the 1950 's, both kebari and fly may not see a difference due to the old school

The biggest difference is that kebari is strong.

I think Sensibility tool Fly and harvesting tool kebari are different.

Is hard to explain because different also by era.


Adam: I have Japanese tenkara books that have western flys and Japanese kebari side by side. Sakasa style kebari share the same chapters as a Parachute Adams. Comparing and contrasting styles of the tenkara experts has always been something that I enjoy.

The “10 colors of tenkara” has been a great way of looking at tenkara for me, so many choices, each choice makes up the way we do it.

I like using Japanese bait hooks, they are thin, sharp and I like the shape. These hooks are designed for the telescoping rods and that is the type of rod configuration that tenkara rods use.

If I had a minimal choice of materials to make my kebari from, it would be, black thread, a grizzly neck hackle, a size 7 Japanese bait hook and a simple vice. Just to be tricky, maybe a little patch of deer hair and some dubbing.

“What would you choose for your minimal materials kit.”

Toshiro Todoroki: If it is the smallest tool, only hooks and threads are available and others are in the mountain.

It is the best if there is Japanese pheasant

Adam: I’m primarily a level line tenkara angler. I learned that from Ishigaki sensei. I like the attributes of a balanced level line. My rods are typically measurements like 2.7m, 3.3m, 3.6m, 3.9m, 4.1m and 4.5m. I used to construct lines specifically for each rod trying to match the personality of the rod with the construction of the line. I now use a “sweet spot” of the rod length plus 1.5 to 2m for the mainline and a .5m for the tippet. So now I make lengths of lines that reflect that. I build lines like 3m, 3.5m 4m, 4.5m etc. My favorite length of rod and line is a 4m to 4.5m rod with a 5.5m to 7m length. When I can catch stream and river fish with this length, it’s my favorite. My next favorite is 3.6m rod and a 4.5m line.

“Can you tell us your favorite rod length and line length combination?”

Toshiro Todoroki: The length of rod is 3.6 m and the line is 4.5 m

Does not that change the length is because it is to cherish the sense of rhythm go to upstream

Adam: Over the years, I’ve explored a lot of the equipment available to us from Japan. Early on, Sakura chose me as a representative for N. America and I also helped them set up distributers in South Africa and in other areas of interest. As I said before, I got my first rod from Tenkara USA and still, my favorite equipment is from them. My tamo, strap pack, and the rods are what I use most and the rod names are the Ito, Sato and Amago. Those rods get a lot use but I also like my Sakura Sekirei and my Nissin Zerosum rods (along with a Oni 4.5 Nissin Zerosum) too. I like nice equipment.


“Do you have a favorite brand? What are your favorite rods?”

Toshiro Todoroki: It is a Daiwa product. Favorite rod is tournament Tenkara (3.6m-4m zoom)

Adam: As I am getting further into my experience as a tenkara angler, I have lost interest in the “latest and greatest” rods preferring to become proficient with the rods that I have been using for years. I value experience rather than trends. With a fixed line rod, the variables become far less variable, I can cast a line with a raw piece of bamboo nearly as effective as a entry level tenkara rod. A refined rod is a pleasure to cast but I’m not so sure I could tell the difference between different rod class and brands.

I prefer the familiar experience rather than chasing a new rod each year.

“What do you think of that? Do you buy new rods?”

Toshiro Todoroki: I tried it with friends' various rod, but I think that it is a wonderful performance even for the low price rod of now.

Instead, I can not feel the performance improvement of expensive rod.

I like familiar rod is the most.

Adam: Phoenix, my city, being in the desert, it is hot in the summer and mild in the winter. During our winter months, our urban ponds become cool enough to sustain trout. When I was younger, I would not be caught fishing in this type of water. It wasn’t serious enough and did not require any skill.

Now that I am older (and hopefully more wise) I fish in the city pond almost exclusively in the winter. There are many that are just a few minutes drive from my home. I don’t have to travel for hours to catch trout, now I catch them much more in the winter because I go all the time.

I tend to use longer rods and lines because it is easier to reach the fish. Many of the fish that are stocked in the urban ponds are also bigger. It’s a lot of fun and sometimes they are hard to catch, it does take some skill.

I see in Japan, the same type of ponds, it looks like they are in the cities and there are many anglers.

“How do you feel about this type of fishing?”

Toshiro Todoroki: I use it when I can not go to mountain streams due to bad weather and I will enjoy the reaction of new kebari.

There are lots of ponds in Nagano Prefecture, but it can not be used because it is closed during the winter season

Adam: I really have a lot of fun with these interviews, I learn quite a bit from them. I would like to slowly start to close the interview.

“Todoriki-san, what do you think about the tenkara anglers outside of Japan, are we learning? Do you see anything that we are missing?”

Toshiro Todoroki: I made tenkara website in February 2009 because tenkara fishing was confused even in Japan.

It was the current situation that most tenkara information comes from the same book.

Of course Fly, as well as Kebari is gifts of pioneers of wisdom and experience, but knowledge of kebari was very poor in japan.

・・・Please see my website for detailed explanation.

This is the reason why the old Kebari angler is being introduced only by photos.

・・・The traditional kebari fishing method which is done in the central mountainous region was not introduced at that time.

The misrepresentation as lore was a state that was too bad.

Originally tradition kebari is a thing to be told when it is recognized as a friend, but too many imitations of shapes were too many strange things.

I do not think that there is a mistake because I think that it is fishing that changes depending on the target fish and environment.

Mistake may be able to fix, but I think that we should unfair information is eliminated.

If you learn the basics you can enjoy yourself.

・・・Me too

My fly fishing is also the same with 10' bamboo rod and silk line.

I think that reviewing my own fishing re-learning the basics

Adam: As much as I enjoy learning from the Japanese experts, I must say that my teacher is truly the rod, line and fly. The trout grade my tests and how I feel after I go fishing is how I get paid. I must say, I’m getting paid very well, I enjoy tenkara.

Sometimes when I am walking up a stream, hunting for fish, I lose time. Sometimes I am fishing a pool and it seems like I have worked it for an hour but I look at the watch and it was only 5 minutes. Other times, I find myself at the top of the valley, miles from my car and the sun is going down behind the ridge and it is getting colder and I thought I was gone for only a couple of hours.

Time is different when I am concentrating and hiking a forest stream.

“Do you feel this? Do you have a story about it?”

Toshiro Todoroki: I may be feeling the same way

I feel happy just being in the mountains

I am the best if I can see the fish there

Adam: Todoroki-san, thank you for your time, I really appreciate your point of view and I enjoy your participation. Please feel free to write anything you want here.

Thank you again.

Toshiro Todoroki: Thank you so much for having such a wonderful time

For me, this is an honor.

In my time, watching fly-tying from kindergarten childhood is not so common in Japan

Let's have fun with Tenkara fishing and kebari

Thank you again.

Genryu Fishing of Japan #38


My first memory of Keiryu fishing

I started fished when I was in the first grade of elementary school. I learned crucian carp fishing from my father at our neighborhood pond. Afterwards, I often went fishing with my father, but when I was 8 years old, I got allowed to go fishing alone to that pond only because I was able to swim then. At that time, I had got my own fishing rod and fishing gear and felt myself as a full‐fledged angler.

My grandfather and my father’s brothers also liked fishing. So, there were many bamboo fishing rods at my home. Most of them were 4.0 to 4.5m crucian carp rods, but there were some 8.0m to 10.0m ayu rods too. I thought how great fishing they do with such a long and heavy fishing rod. I reduced some sections from the butt section and made a fishing rod of about 3.0 m and fished in the pond. Every time I needed a fishing rod, my grandmother chose a fishing rod that would suit me from the bunch of fishing rods in the storeroom. 

 

It was the time, telescopic glass fiber rods finally appeared at last, and they were sold at expensive prices at fishing tackle stores. Some adult anglers were starting to buy glass fiber rods, but all the children were using bamboo rods which were sold cheaply at neighborhood candy store or fishing gear shop. The fishing rod sold at the candy shop was about 300 yen (I think it was about US$1.00.) with a set of tackles such as fishing line, fishing hook, bobber etc. Those fishing rods were of minimal quality to do fishing, but my fishing rods were of good quality made by fishing rod craftsmen. I was a little boast about it.

In such a boyhood, perhaps it was when I was 9 years old, I went to Yamizo mountain with my family on a beautiful Golden Week Holiday of May in fresh green season. Yamizo mountain is about 1000 m in height and located in Kitaibaraki (North part of our prefecture). Our plan was to go to the peak of Yamizo mountain by car and have picnic lunch, then drop in the fishing pond by the mountain stream for rainbow trout fishing. There are several mountain streams running through the foot of Yamizo mountain. Yamizo River in the south, Yamatsuri river in the east and Kuji River in the north of the mountain. The size of the streams was all small, but they were flowing through some beautiful hardwoods forests remained in places and mountain villages where the old houses with thatched roofs studded in the rice fields.



I think, the views of the villages of Yamizo that I saw at that time were exactly the original sceneries of the mountain villages of Japan. I, being a child at that time, felt sorry to those people living in such old houses because I imagined the living must have been very uncomfortable, and I thought they should build new architectural houses as soon as possible. Forty years have passed since then, there are no old private houses of the thatched roof in the villages of Yamizo now. The country roads, that were narrow just for one car wide but pleasantly winding following to the natural terrain, turned into boring roads that was wide and straight. I have passed fifty years of age now, and when I look back those day's beautiful landscapes of countryside, I feel great regretful feelings from the bottom of my heart realizing the size of what Japan has lost in exchange for becoming an economic superpower. 

 

Well, back to the story, we went to the peak of Yamizo mountain by car and enjoyed the view in the morning. Then we moved to Yamizo river and had a picnic lunch by the stream. The stream was only about 4 or 5m wide, and the depth of water was just under the knees of an adult person. However, clear water that we can see each of rocks at the bottom of the stream was rapidly flowing through between the many rocks. “We can fish mountain stream fish called Yamame here in this stream.” My father told me. I could not believe there was fish in such shallow and too clear water.

After a while, one angler was walking towered to us from the downstream. He was wearing a thick shirt for mountain climbing and work pants, and on his foot he was wearing waraji (straw sandals) on the work tabi (Japanese -style socks with a separate division for the big toe and the other toes). He also had a small daypack made of canvas on his back and a creel braided with bamboo chicks on his waist. His appearance was typical style of keiryu angler in those days. When I was a kid, those waraji or bamboo braided creels were sold at every fishing tackle store. Even some countryside people were making their waraji by themselves.

He was doing bait fishing with about 4.0 to 4.5m bamboo keiryu rod. He looked like same age as my father. He was talking about fishing with my father and showed me yamame in his creel. There were some small (about 15-20cm) but very beautiful yamame. I was impressed that yamame was such beautiful fish. The angler talked with my father 2,3 minutes and waded upstream for fishing. That sunny day in May, the scene of encounter with the yamame angler in the stream surrounded by fresh green forests was carved in my memory.

I sometimes talked with my father that we would do keiryu fishing someday in the future. After that we have done many types of fishing like lake fishing, carp fishing in the river or saltwater fishing, but we always felt that keiryu fishing would be the last fishing we would do. May be, we were feeling that mountain stream is the last place we would do fishing.


In fact, my father and I took up keiryu fishing when I was around 30 years old. It was fly fishing first and sometimes later we did tenkara fishing too. Since then, I had enjoyed keiryu fishing with my father for about 12 years until he passed away. We sometimes went to that Yamizo river or Kuji river. Those small streams are called “Sato-gawa (Village stream)” by anglers in Japan, and those are good streams for early mountain stream fishing season. Even now, I go fishing to that area sometimes in April or May, and every time I go there I think of that yamame angler, but I really can not figure out where the place I met with that angler was.

2017 Tenkara USA Summit


I've had this photo dump in cue for so long and I've been so busy writing about other things, I'm letting it go and letting the photo's speak for themselves. It was a wonderful summit, very large. I'm proud to be a part of it. Thank you Tenkara USA and Daniel Galhardo.