10 Questions with Yoshida Takashi

10 Questions with Yoshida Takashi
by Adam Trahan
Translated by John Sachen

I had seen Takashi-san in social media, we were not friends at the time but many of my Japanese friends were his friends and I had seen all the comments and pictures from his Tenkara adventures. He is very stylish and always things just so. His style of fishing is my style with shore meals playing an important role. We carry and use much of the same ancillary equipment and I’m always paying attention to the little details in his pictures. I have learned some nice tips by paying attention to the details from “Yoshidakebari” his online blog.

His photography is beautiful and pointed at the subjects that I love. I had been promoting his blog at Tenkara-Fisher and became friends with him on social media. It became apparent to me that he was very good at what he does, I started noticing him in Sebata’s pictures and also Daniel’s videos.

Takashi-san really is into Tenkara on a deep level and now I get to find out more about him through this Interview.

Adam: Thank you for accepting my request for the Interview. I would like to introduce you to my friend John Sachen, he will be translating our Interview. Sachen-san is an old friend; I meet him while we were skateboarding in empty swimming pools back in the 70’s. He knows Japan having lived, taught and worked there for many years. He is very good at this process and he has translated the last Interview with Kazuya Shimoda so I would say we are in good hands with his translation skills.

I am impressed with your style of reporting on Keiryu. I’ve been to Japan and the mountain stream fishing is excellent and I enjoy the style of fishing practiced there. Now we have good introduction of the Japanese style in America and now to the world and people are embracing it.

“For those of us who may not know you, will you tell us a little bit about who you are and how did you come to report on Keiryu/Tenkara?”

Yoshida Takashi: I have been fishing nearly 50 years now, but when I began as a child my first fishing trip was to the sea. Afterwards I became interested in lure fishing and for the past 20 some years, there was a period where I had a strong passion for large-mouth bass fishing. At the same time, I also got into fly fishing which I also really enjoy. When I first began tying flies, the process was so fascinating to me that over a 2-year period I did not go fishing and instead spent my weekends tying flies. I also had an interest in mountain climbing and from time to time I went hiking in the mountains. It was at that time I discovered the beauty of Japan’s mountain streams and the potential for fishing there using flies and this was the beginning of my Tenkara fishing days. Having been recognized as one with a certain level of fishing skills and fly tying, I began teaching Tenkara since 2009 at TOKYO TROUT COUNTRY in Okutama. I hold a beginner Tenkara class once a month and for experienced anglers I have a group session on Kebari fly tying. I believe I have taught several hundred people over the past years. From this exposure I have had an opportunity to be covered by the mass media and from time to time I get work for contributing to magazines and DVDs. Currently I serve as an advisor to the line manufacturer FUJINO LINE. And finally, I have made a Tenkara Group called YOSHIDA KEBARI CLUB that includes the people who have attended my classes, and these days I enjoy fishing with them.

Adam: I am writing a book on Tenkara Fishers, enthusiasts of this type of fishing and I will surely include you in the book as well as placing this on Tenkara-Fisher, the web site. I have a feeling that you are more than quite skilled at fishing and I am looking for some of your reflections on Tenkara and Keiryu. Here in America, we have sort of adopted the term “Keiryu” as bait fishing in mountain streams where as it is my understanding is that Keiryu is “mountain stream fishing” that covers Tenkara, western fly fishing, spin casting, bait fishing, any type of fishing in the mountain stream.

“Please tell us about your chosen method of fishing. I’ve seen some of your genryu fishing/camp photographs and trip reports, will you tell us about it?”

Yoshida Takashi: My style of fishing is determined case by case. I usually determine my style based on the conditions at that time and tailor my style to the type of fish I am targeting. I have several varieties of rods, lines and kebari flies which can be adopted for specific situations.

In an article I previously published in a magazine, I wrote about the unlimited styles for Tenkara fishing without restrictions from oceans to river mouths, lakes to ponds, or freshwater to saltwater fish. However, my favorite place for Tenkara is a stream with flowing water that is so beautiful you can drink it without question, abundant with moss and compact like a Japanese garden, in a so called mountain stream in a Genryu headwater area.

One reason why I love this type of place is the fish living there are so different from the farmed fish and these remote or closed off areas is nature at its best and the fish are extremely beautiful. Another reason besides being able to enjoy Tenkara is I am able to feel the beauty of the water and fresh air of the valleys and gorges I enter, listen to the birds sing, see moss, trees and insects, enjoy a meal and coffee and take in the beauty of the mountain stream. To make the most of the experience, even if it is the same mountain stream, there are limits if you are near the village area of the stream so to get the most out of the experience I believe making the effort to reach the headwater area makes for a better experience.

Adam: I enjoy a little bait fishing but Tenkara is my favorite.

I’ve been fishing Tenkara for six years now. It’s all the type of fishing that I do now in the mountain stream. Before that I focused on lite line fly fishing (Western style) When I started, I learned a lot about Tenkara from watching Prof. Ishigaki, I visited Masami Sakakibara and early on I learned a lot from watching the videos made by Kazuya Shimoda.

“Who are your influences are in fishing?”

Yoshida Takashi: The person I have been influenced by the most is the late Master Keigu Horie. In his later years he was the manager of the TOKYO TROUT COUNTRY in Okutama. It was by fortune of knowing him that I got to know other Tenkara Masters. However, in my case I was originally into fly fishing before getting into Tenkara, so rather than learning fishing techniques from Master Horie, he was more of a kind instructor for me on how to navigate the mass media world with the activities I was involved with at the time including reviewing my articles and other such matters. The one thing that sparked my interest in Tenkara was certainly the book published by Gentatsu Kuwahara san. I never had a chance to meet him in person, but his book served as my bible for learning Tenkara. I feel good knowing that Kuwahara san has a spot in my heart as a Master I respect.

Adam: It is my pleasure to have a friendship with Yuzo Sebata. I have noticed that you and he do a little fishing together. The video that was made by Daniel-san about the pronunciation of Japanese words that is where I put it together. I knew I had been seeing you here and there in pictures. You are always smiling and looking like you are having such a good time.

“If you will, please reflect on your adventures in the mountains with Sebata-san. He is one of my favorite Tenkara sensei. I think he has fishing magic. Do you have a story to tell us about fishing with him?”

Yoshida Takashi: I was fortunate to have met Sebata san through an introduction by Master Horie. I have had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions at different events. I am definitely a huge fan of Sebata san. I went on a fishing trip with him together with Daniel Galhardo to do a Special Edition on Keiryu for the media company TSURIBITO. The most impressive thing I felt from our fishing trip with Sebata san was the feeling of being immersed or blended in with nature. He has a very strong will to catch fish but in some unique way different from other expert fisherman, especially with his movement, lifestyle around the stream in almost every way, and quite impressively it seems effortless for him. And it is apparent that he is truly enjoying himself in every way around the streams. I do not believe in magic around fishing but observing him fish, his style Is so natural that one would think the fish don’t see him as a threat and swim towards him and swallow his kebari fly. I think it is all of that which makes up the magic of Sebata’s World.

Adam: American culture and Japanese culture are quite different. I have many good practices and behaviors in Japanese culture. When I was in Japan, I loved fishing and then going to the Onsen in the evening. It was heaven for me. Obviously I really enjoy Tenkara and with this type of fishing for mountain valley trout, I have learned how to prepare it in a tasty way from my Japanese friends. In my camp, after shioyaki comes kotsuzake.

“Is there any Western Culture practice or custom that you enjoy while fishing?”

Yoshida Takashi: Being that I am quite busy with the industry, my family and several other things, my basic fishing trip style is mainly day trips. Given that my home river are the streams in Okutama which makes the day trip possible from Tokyo, and it is possible to reach the headwater area so I am quite content to be able to experience such a wonderful place, on my day trips. However, the area where I fish is stocked (farmed fish are released into the river). The native fish which inhabited this area since ancient Japan times are very rare so any fish I catch here are released. Even knowing that the fish are being stocked and other rivers I go to where there are efforts being made to rejuvenate the fish, I rarely take the fish which I catch for eating. However, I do admit that I really enjoy Iwana Kotsuzake.

Adam: My practice of Tenkara and the hiking that goes along with it in the mountains is heavily influenced by my study of Japanese anglers. For many years I did the same kind of hiking and camping with my fly rods and backpacking equipment. But when Tenkara came to America, I started to study the Japanese so I could find more of a pure experience with it. Along with this study of it, I found that your anglers use a lot of lightweight equipment that typically went with climbing or lightweight backpacking.

I have purchased much of my kit from Japanese products. My little table and chopsticks are Snowpeak, my stove is a Soto, not to mention that much of my things are from Japanese companies.

Coffee is a huge thing for me in the morning and I have tried many different varieties, methods of brewing coffee including old lightweight aluminum percolating coffee pot. I usually stop after a little bit of my hike up the stream and brew up some coffee. It is so good, a perfect drink for fishing for a morning of fishing deep in the mountains.

I’ve noticed that you are starting to use a small French Expresso machine! Your presentation is perfect!

“I think this is very cool. Please tell us a little about your making expresso on the stream. When do you decide to make it? Is there a best streamside coffee time?”

Yoshida Takashi: I have two reasons for enjoying coffee at a marsh. One is to help me when I lose my concentration from fishing, the other is something I enjoy after eating my lunch. Since Tenkara is very demanding on my ability to concentrate, my fishing will become a bit rough after continuous fishing for a couple hours. That is when I usually take a break and brew some coffee. I also make coffee after enjoying my lunch. Consuming coffee helps keep me alert when fishing and also benefits my drive home in the car by keeping me from getting sleepy. In these instances I really love drinking strong espresso.

Adam: I’m just amazed. I think it is a little decadent to brew up with a small packable table, stove and in my case, I sometimes carry a pack chair or pad. For me, it’s about comfort and all about having my cake and eating it too.

On the other hand, Tenkara is NOT about excess. Tenkara is about efficiency. I carry far less equipment when I fish Tenkara and when I was fishing a lite line fly rod, I had already developed a minimal style.

I have seen some of your kebari, they are quite beautiful.

“How do you choose which kebari to use? Do you design your own patterns or do you go with patterns that have already been developed? Do you use Western flys?”

Yoshida Takashi: I really don’t like expressions that say ”Tenkara must be this or that” or ”If you don’t do this or that then it isn’t Tenkara”. The reason is simply that Tenkara styles are not determined by any law and since Tenkara has been practiced in ancient Japan, I am sure if there were 100 fisherman, there were 100 styles being used (the same goes for kebari and other equipment). For whatever style be it simple or complex, it is my belief if the angler is enjoying himself then that is what is important.

I therefore I tie and utilize several types of kebari. The designs I use come from existing patterns to my own originals which I dream up myself. Once reason is the place I most often fish is Okutama and the stream can become crowded with anglers and catching fish there is not always so straightforward. My approach there always needs to be adapted so that the fish will take my kebari, and my modifications are not only with the kebari but also with the rig, line and rod which I adjust according to the situation. I usually carry a significant amount of flies which have different characteristics for floating, sinking, sasoi or luring, weight, dark colors, bright colors and each of these in different sizes. There are also times which provide good conditions to catch fish by using one type of kebari fly continuously throughout the day.

Adam: Because I need to know as much as I can about Tenkara, I seek out Tenkara books written in Japan. The books tell me a lot even though I cannot read Japanese. I get a lot out of the diagrams and drawings. The kebari within, I don’t need translation to mimic that style. I have my bi-lingual friends help me with some translating and I have learned so much about the different styles of Tenkara.

“Are you a fan of Japanese Tenkara books? Do you collect them or have a favorite?”

Yoshida Takashi: When I first got started, I read a wide variety of books. Of course, my bookshelf has a significant amount of Tenkara books I have collected over time. These days I rarely read the magazines which I am not published in. The reason is simply, since I already have a good grasp on the fundamentals, it is more satisfying to me to learn new techniques on my own. It is for these reasons, I don’t necessarily have a book or specific equipment which is my so called favorite. For me, it is something that any amount of money can’t buy, a “memory of an enjoyable fishing trip spent with a good friend”.

Adam: I have been making web sites for a long time. I started promoting Yoshikazu Fujioka’s site, “Seasons of the Mountain Village, My Best Streams” since about 1997. I really like your site too.

“Tell us a little bit about your favorite web sites and why you make yours, thank you.”

Yoshida Takashi: For the same reasons above, I rarely visit the websites of other anglers. My personal weblog is a diary of my experiences and it is not written to be compelling to others. For me anyways, defining the type or style of Tenkara is not important to me. I only observe the rules and regulations of the river while I fishing in a way which comes to my mind at that time. The reason being is this is most enjoyable for me. I think the “Fun” factor is the most important thing above and beyond Tenkara itself. If one is bound by something then it is no fun so I don’t push or promote my style. Pushing one’s style will rob that person of their fun factor. The fishing club I run and its individual members all have their own unique fishing styles. I encourage all the members to develop their own styles so they can enjoy the fun factor which comes with that approach. If someone requests me to teach them a style or technique, I will work with them on anything and teach them in a detailed way, even if they want to learn my own style.

Adam: Yoshida-san, I want to tell you that I really appreciate your photography, I like whom you hang out with, I like your style, and you are a fun Tenkara angler. Just know that I am a big fan of yours and I appreciate your participation here and in social media.

“Please feel free to write anything you like. This Interview will go in my book, The Tenkara Fisher and online at the Tenkara-Fisher web site. Thank you again!”

Yoshida Takashi: I am a firm believer that Tenkara styles are not defined by any one person nor is there any written in stone way of how things should be done. Traditions have traditional styles, innovation leads to innovative styles, the people who take up Tenkara should develop their own unique styles and not necessarily imitate what others are doing. Making up your own methods which make it a fun experience for yourself is what I believe is good for the sport. I get this feeling recently that some Tenkara anglers are missing out on the fun factor. Tenkara is not supposed to be work and sometimes the focus becomes too much on the method, and pushing oneself hard to remember to do certain steps. Tenkara should not be something you do unwillingly. In my case, my method of enjoying fishing or streams have come from Tenkara but I like to include photography, food and coffee and freely make my time a most enjoyable occasion. There is nothing better than seeing a smiling face of one of my fishing partners at a valley river stream.

This interview was originally published on August 28th, 2015