Genryu Fishing of Japan #47


A Bear Family

by Keiichi Okushi

In January 2020, the first person infected with covid19 in Tokyo came out. The number of infected people increased to about 30 in a month, and although the number of covid19 was more increasing in China and Southeast Asia at that time, I thought that it would be settled by the time the climate became hot, like someone else’s problem. However, the number of infected people did not subside even after spring and gradually spread throughout the country. In April, we were requested to refrain from going out without important purposes and to refrain from traveling across prefectures. Usually, in April and May, I often go fishing in the mountain streams in the neighboring prefectures, but that year I could only go fishing in the small mountain streams in the north of our prefecture or get out to the low mountain hike in our prefecture. I then thought it was a big deal.


Even so, the number of infected people gradually turned to a declining trend, the restrictions on going out were lifted, and we decided to go to the first genryu fishing trip in early June like every year. I talked with my group friends and decided to avoid fishing with large number of people in one group. I went to the familiar Oide-River in Tohoku Iwate with Tsuru-chan and Mr. Matsuzawa for 2 nights and 3 days. Oide-river is the genryu that we often go in the beginning of June because we could harvest good sansai(mountain plants) besides fishing. Concerning Oide-river I have written in “#9 Genryu Fishing Trip Walking Through 1300 Year Old Trail”.


On early Friday morning, Tsuru-chan, Mr. Matsuzawa and I were climbing 1300 year old trail and picked Nemagaritake (Nemagari bamboo shoots), Taranome, udo etc. on the way to the tenba (camp site) by Oide-river. It was a deeply foggy morning, but by the time we crossed the pass and went down to the Oide-river, the clouds had become much thinner, and the sun was shining little by little. Eventually, out of nowhere, Ezoharzemi (Ezoharu Cicada) started singing one by one. “Weather will be better soon," Tsuru-chan said happily with a smile.(Ezoharuzemi only sings in good weather.) After 15 minutes, the blue sky was spreading, and the forest was surrounded by a large chorus of Ezoharzemi. There is no better time than when you come to the mountains and the weather is getting better like this.


We arrived at the usual Tenba about 10:00. Immediately, we set up a tarp and prepared for early lunch. The afternoon was a wonderful day. We hiked up the main -stream and fished a little. Yes, fishing was very good. Everyone fished good size iwana. We returned to Tenba much earlier than usual. We prepared sansai (mountain plants) by the stream in front of the Tenba and started drinking while preparing dinner. At 8 pm, when we continued the drinking while fighting drowsiness, there was full of stars in the sky that promised good weather of the next day.


 The next day we woke up after 6am. Weather was good, and we were all fine. I always think that after sleeping in a mountain listening to the sound of stream we have a pleasant awakening and wonderful morning. May be because the first day of entering the mountain, our sleep time is extremely short due to the travelling the night before, and the tiredness of climbing over the mountains may lead us to a deep sleep from an early night. But not only because of that, I think it is very good for the human body and spirit to sleep in the woods listening to the sound of the stream flowing. In fact, when I come back from the mountain, I'm really in good shape for about a week.


 After having breakfast, we set out for the 30m Kashiwa Otaki (Big Water-fall) in Kashiwa-zawa, which flows into far upstream of the main stream. We skipped the area we fished the day before and started fishing about an hour walk from the tenba. Fishing was good on this day as well. There aren't many anglers in this river in early June, and fish are not so cautious. There was very little snow in the last winter, so the amount of water in the stream was very low, but iwana were very active and chasing flies well. The three of us took turns fishing and arrived at Kashiwa Otaki before noon.


 We returned to the mainstream and had lunch. We still had plenty of time, so we fished further upstream of the mainstream from noon. The fishing there was also very good. After fishing for about 1 km, Tsuru-chan suddenly shouted, "Oh, bear!" When Tsuru-chan was fishing in the waterfall basin of a waterfall of about 2 m. It seems that a bear appeared on the waterfall, which is about 7 or 8m away from us. According to Tsuru-chan, he was a young bear body length of a little over 1m, who has not grown up yet. The bear was also surprised and fled upstream. After climbing the waterfall, it was a slab gorge with steep banks. We walked a little, but after the bear ran away in a hurry, the puddles all over the places were cloudy. "I think he spoiled the stream for fishing", "I don't want to bump him again." We decided to finish fishing and return to the tenba.


 When we walked for an hour to the tenba, Mr. Matsuzawa, who was walking at the front, shouted, "Oh, there is a huge bear!" Well, bear again, when I looked downstream while thinking so, it was true that a wonderfully strong looking and big bear was walking toward us. The bear had not noticed us yet, maybe it was still 100m away. Even at that distance, he was probably a big bear whose body length was probably close to 2m. "Wow, it's a really amazing bear." I said. Tsuru-chan and Mr. Matsuzawa were taking pictures, but the bear still had not noticed us. At the distance of about 50m, I thought it was about to be dangerous distance and we shouted, "Hey, hey." The bear immediately noticed us and disappeared into the woods on the left bank of the stream. It was the usual bear behavior pattern. We though he was not a dangerous bear. We walked to the tenba with confidence.



In the evening, we started a drinking around the bonfire next to the tenba from an early time. After drinking for a while, our talks got excited. Around 6 o'clock when it was finally getting dark, "I think some animal was rustling from a while ago.", "Oh yeah, I noticed that too," said Mr. Matsuzawa and Tsuru-chan. I could not hear it because it was in the direction of the bush behind me. Immediately there was a sound of animal walking in the bush. I felt it was only about 15m away. I felt it was very strange as to whether the wild animals would bonfire and walk to the place where they were speaking loudly. "Hey, hey.", "Don't come over here.", We made a loud voice, but the sound of walking through the bushes was approaching. We were upset and stood up.


 "Oh, bear!" Exclaimed Mr. Matsuzawa. A bear was walking just behind Tenba, 7.8 meters from us. "Hey, don't come!" When we shouted, the bear looked finally noticed us. When Tsuru-chan threw a firewood, the bear turned and ran upstream. "What's that? No joke.", "It may be a young bear who doesn't know about humans yet." We were relieved and continued to have dinner. However, in less than five minutes, we were horrified by the sound of pushing through the bush, bear-like sound approaching again. "No way!" Tsuru-chan threw the firewood again, and he became quiet.


 "Oh my god, a big mother bear is coming!" Mr. Matsuzawa shouted and pointed to the upper reaches of the stream. A big bear that seemed to be seen upstream in the daytime was crossing the stream about 20m upstream of the Tenba to the right bank side where we were. "Hey, hey!", "Don't come!", We screamed and ringing the pot. The mother bear immediately noticed us and disappeared into the forest on the upstream right bank. That was where the young bear just ran away. And within 5 minutes, a bear-like sound was approaching from the back downstream side of the Tenba. I felt like we were in a pinch and panicked. Tsuru-chan threw a firewood again and drove him away. However, this time it seemed that he was trying to go from downstream to upstream. May be, he was the third one. I suddenly realized. These three bears are a family. Thinking to their size of the two young bears, it was the time they would leave from the mother bear to be independent in the near future. May be, they were practicing apart from their mother during the day. Perhaps the young bears were trying to join their parent bears in the lower reaches of Tenba. One of the young bears passed behind Tenba, but the second was driven away by us and fled upstream. Another young bear, who realized that his mother and brother bears were upstream, would have been driven away by Tsuru-chan every time, trying to pass behind Tenba many times in order to join them


 "The next time a young bear comes, let’s go down the stream side and let him through." I told Tsuru-chan and Mr. Matsuzawa also telling them what I thought. About 3 minutes later, a rustling and a young bear came from the downstream side. We immediately descended to the riverbank, and the bear seemed to have gone upstream. "It would have been too bad if I was attacked by that big parent bear.", "Aren't they attack us again, are they?" we talked, but they never came again. Around 11pm, I became quite calm and sleepy. We decided to sleep, but we put all the bonfires woods on the bonfire so that it would keep burning as long as possible. We also left the lantern on. "It's best not to sleep soundly to notice in case a bear comes." Tsuru-chan said.

I woke up once after 1am. The bonfire was still burning. The light of the lantern also illuminated the area. I did not feel any sign of a bear. Insects are crying. I heard a Tora-tsugumi (thrush) singing in the distance. It was the usual genryu night. The two, who had told me not to sleep soundly so that they could immediately notice the sign of a bear, were sleeping soundly with a sleeping bag on their heads. I fell asleep thinking that various things would happen in the mountains.

It was also sunny from the morning on the last day. After withdrawing the tenba, I was walking up the trail to the ridge carrying a backpack that became slightly lighter. Suddenly, I wondered the children bears met the mother bear safely last night. Then, I hoped that the beautiful nature of this genryu area continues to be rich and that bear family will live well in this rich forest for many years. From the bottom of my heart.

Interview with Tanidoraku Takano


Takano san and I were supposed to meet in 2016 when I visited the Tadami Bansho. I was on a trip to meet many tenkara fishermen and the arm of my trip to Tadami was filled with many new friendships, except meeting Tanidoraku Takano. Our schedules conflicted and I was unable to meet and go fishing with him.

Adam Trahan: Takano san, thank you for taking this interview. I will keep things simple, so this prevents the Google Translation from changing the meaning.

I am sorry we didn’t meet. Especially since I have now found that we share more than just the love of tenkara.


“How long have you been practicing tenkara?”


Tanidoraku Takano: I am very sorry that I could not meet Adam san.

It has been 20 years since I started Tenkara.

When I first caught char in Tenkara, I was very happy.

The char was about 25 cm in size, but it looked bigger to me.


Adam Trahan: I have an old friend that I lost touch with many years ago. He married a Japanese lady and lived in Tokyo for 30 years teaching English and he works for an international banking software company now. A few years ago, I taught him tenkara. He learned very quickly and now that’s all he does. He takes his work with him (online) on these massive trips around the west fishing all the great water.


He is an excellent tenkara ambassador and now he gives back to this beautiful way to spend time in the forest stream. I am very proud of him and on a couple of occasions, he has outfished me and more importantly, he makes excellent fishing decisions on the water.


I am quite sure that when he returns to Japan to finish out his life there with his family, he will be in the center of the tenkara community there as far as English language tenkara fisher relations. He already is on a distant level as he has done a lot of work in translation for our interviews and buying books, equipment, sharing experiences of what is going on outside of Japan.


Recently, I told him about your interview, he gave me a little hint about your name.


“Can you tell us a little about your name Takano-san? What does Tanidoraku mean?”


Tanidoraku Takano: My real name is Satoshi Takano.

Tanidoraku is the name of a mountain stream fishing club.

Tanidoraku was established in 1998.

Tanidoraku contains two words, "tani" and "doraku".

"tani" stands for mountain stream in Japanese.

It's a little difficult to translate the Japanese word "doraku".

It's close to the word hobby, but the nuance is different from "hobby".

"doraku" is more enthusiastic than "hobby".

“doraku” means to pursue the path even deeper than “hobby”.

It also means forgetting everything else and getting hooked. 


Adam Trahan: I tried to start a tenkara club here in Phoenix. Initially, it started to gather some people, but I was ahead of the curve. People were discovering tenkara on their own and the online market where people got their information was not selling what I continue to reflect on.


It was a little disappointing, but it was actually a good thing for me because it kept me focused on my work here.

 

Yoshikazu Fujioka created a club quite some time ago. I have been his friend for more than 25 years. I like his work, he is one of the best tenkara ambassadors because the work he does is respected in Japan and all throughout the world as cannon to tenkara. His club, “Tsuttenkai” is open for everyone and is the perfect club for me as I can represent that wherever I go. I love the idea of Tsuttenkai and tenkara as well as small stream fly fishing.


“Takano-san, I think you represent a club, can you tell us about it?”


Tanidoraku Takano: Yes, I am the representative of the club.

tanidoraku has 15 members.

Members have a wide range of ages, from 20s to 70s.

Members are tenkara, fly, lure and bait fishing.

Among them, tenkara and bait fishing are popular among members for ancient Japanese fishing.

Tenkara is popular with young people in the club. Some fishing can be floated on a dry fly, while others can be submerged in water.



Tanidoraku has long interacted with Tenkara legends such as
Yuzo Sebata and Kazuya Shimoda. I am very much influenced by them. And I have enjoyed mountain stream fishing like them.

The fishing season in Japan is from March to September, but Japan is very snowy, and you can only go to mountain streams for a short period from May to September.

In the meantime, I will go about 10 times. Camp and fish in mountain streams. It's a great time.

Most are 1 night 2 days or 2 nights 3 days.

We walk to a mountain stream without roads and build a base camp there.

Then, take a fishing rod and head upstream. In the evening, I'll be back at the base camp, where I'll bonfire, cook and drink.

It's a fun time separated from civilization.


Adam Trahan: Thank you, is it still possible that I can be a member? 


We have been friends for quite some time now. I missed you on my last trip to Tadami Bansho. I really want to meet you and besides the friends that I made in Japan already, you are the number one person there that I want to meet.

I think it is only fair that you get to ask some questions of me, so this is the time to do that here.


Tanidoraku Takano: You are welcome to become a member of tanidoraku.

You are the first American member.


Japan is an island country surrounded by the sea. There are many people fishing in the sea in Japan.

Japan has many rivers nearby. That's why fishing is so popular.

I think the United States is very large and some states are far from the sea. Are there many people fishing in lakes and rivers in sea less states?



Which state is popular for trout fishing?

Adam Trahan: Since fly fishing can target all types of fish, I think it is practiced in all states. But as far as mountain streams go, Colorado, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah are probably most known as mountain states, Pennsylvania has quite a fly-fishing reputation, Connecticut, Vermont, New York and Tennessee. Florida has been reported as a saltwater fly-fishing destination for a very long time. There are other states that I have not mentioned but it is early in the morning, 5a.m. and I have not had any coffee.


Tanidoraku Takano: I started fishing in earnest when I was about 28 years old.

The first fish I caught in the mountain stream was yamame trout.

It was so beautiful; it was like a jewel of the river. I will never forget that scene.


How old have you been fishing?

Please tell me the name of the fish you caught for the first time.


 I think fly fishing is more popular than tenkara in the United States. 


Why did you start tenkara? 


Adam Trahan: I am 61 years old. I was taught fly fishing on a small stream when I was 10 and I think the stream (in Utah) had rainbow trout which we prepared for breakfast. I believe my first fish caught was in Tennessee in our farm ponds. Sunfish and catfish.


Fly fishing is much more popular than tenkara, for sure. It has been established for quite some time. When the movie, “A River Runs Through It” was released in 1992, fly fishing greatly increased in popularity. I have a friend, Jason Borger, who did stunt casting in the movie. I did his interview and talked about it a little.


I am always so impressed by my Japanese friend’s answers, you are interpreting an interview in a foreign language in a unique format. My friend John Sachen-san sometimes helps me understand that the Japanese language is not a literal translation. It is difficult to describe but thank you for helping me get to the meanings very quickly.


I have always liked moto cross! I started very early with bicycle motocross and even raced with some of the biggest names. Christophe’ Laurent also is a fan of moto cross.



“Can you tell me about your interest in motocross?”


Tanidoraku Takano: I first learned about motocross when I was 16 years old.

In Japan, you can get a motorcycle license from the age of 16.

I started riding a motorcycle at the age of 16. Motorcycles are very fast and fun to go far.

In the city next door where I live, there was a Honda motocross course. I started motocross there. I also participated in a race held on the motocross course.

It was a very enjoyable experience.

I'm not motocrossing now, but I'm still riding a motorcycle.

I am restoring the Yamaha GT80 made in 1975. When it is completed, I will go touring.


Adam Trahan: That is very cool. I like a lot of things. I have learned that my Japanese brothers are just like me and I am just like them. I like some different types of music that not so many people may like and in Japan, I found many people like this music and tenkara!


Really cool to understand.


So I have been taken on a genryu trip in Tadami area. Akakuzure sawa was where I was taken. It was a good hike and then some climbing up minor waterfalls and stream obstacles. We set our tenba up and it was raining hard, but we had a good party and my friends, well, you know my friends, they made the trip very nice for me.


There are levels of genryu fishing that no one outside of Japan will understand. The people that fish and climb in these areas must be talented photographers, writers, and reporters. Their work is isolated by design as they only reach the community, they are part of.


Yuzu Sebata is a legend! I try to tell people outside of Japan what Sebata-san has done in his life. I am not capable of describing his lifestyle as well as his skill in the mountains.


Mixing many disciplines, foraging for food, climbing the most difficult streams, living in this environment for weeks at a time. It is amazing. I was super tired after only a couple of days. Of course, I am a foreigner, but I can still understand by just touching on it a little.



“Can you tell us what it is like to do sawanobori?”

Tanidoraku Takano: Japan is a very mountainous country.

The ratio is 60% of the national land.

There are 30,000 rivers flowing there. Most of them are mountain streams.

Sawanobori started in such an environment.


Sawanobori is a sport that walks in mountain streams, swims, climbs waterfalls, and climbs to ridges.

The field is uninhabited and can be enjoyed in the wilderness.

Sawanobori is said to have started in the Kurobe River in Japan. At that time, it would have been very difficult without the excellent equipment of modern times.

Mr. Sebata is great.

He came to sawanobori alone.

There was no Web in his time. He challenged alone to the source without any information, looking only at the map.

Because of him, we can fish at the headwaters.

He is a Tenkara legend and a Sawanobori legend.


sawanobori is also looking forward to bonfire.

I love watching bonfires. I want to watch for hours.

Also, the bonfire warms the wet body. We also cook on a bonfire.


The night sky you see while bonfire is also beautiful.

In the city where we live, the lighting is too bright to see the starry sky. But in the mountain stream, you can see a very beautiful sky.


Sawanobori is a wonderful play to enjoy the primitive.



Adam Trahan: It is amazing and beyond belief to an average stream fisherman here in the United States, what you guys do. It borders on the comparison of technical mountain climbing.


I am afraid at my age; I do not have the time left to come to your area and do this with my friends there. 


I only want to show other specialized mountain stream fishermen outside of Japan, what the opportunities are in your country. I want to help the young people in tenkara to understand that tenkara is much more than the simple form of fishing. It also stands for some serious types of fishing that is a little difficult to describe because there is not much of it being done outside of Japan.


I used to say that you did not have to go to Japan to learn tenkara on a very advanced level. But now I know that I was naive to say such a thing. There are very few people outside of Japan that can understand just what you guys do. 


I think people like you and Maruyama san and other photographer fisher sawanobori enthusiasts do a good job. Sebata san is humble and does not show so much about what he has done. Please help me show some good photo data of this kind of fishing for your interview.


Speaking of photography, your pictures are very cool!


“Have you done any professional photography?”


Tanidoraku Takano: Yes, the photos I took have appeared in magazines and books.


I like fishing. I like taking pictures as much as that.

I photograph the scenery of the headwaters and the chars and animals that live there.


Primitive nature is very beautiful.

I always want to take a picture of it.


I hope that as many people as possible will be impressed by the photos I took. 


Adam Trahan: In my area, climate change is affecting our streams. There are some streams that I have been fishing my whole life that are drying up and overpopulation and disrespectful people have ruined.


“Are you seeing any differences in your weather and the effect on your environment in Japan?”


Tanidoraku Takano: Climate change has a great impact on rivers in Japan as well.

What I am worried about is the flood.

Every year, torrential rains cause heavy rains on the mountains, causing debris flows.

As a result, some rivers have lost their trout.

It will take years for the trout to grow again.


The rivers in Japan are steep. Therefore, so many Sand control dams are made to prevent flooding in the lower reaches where people live.

Therefore, the trout cannot run upstream.

There are trout spawning in Japan as well. However, it is also a big problem that they cannot run upstream again due to the dams in most rivers. 


Adam Trahan: Because I am in love with the idea of tenkara and I practice it in my own way, I seek out others who like tenkara very much.


Recently, I told Hisao Ishigaki happy birthday! He told me something very cool, it went something like this, “Thank you. I’m 75 years old, healthy and powerful. And I like tenkara more than anyone.” I believe him, I think he is very good for tenkara.



“I’m going to ask a funny question, from your understanding, who are the people outside of Japan that you think are good for tenkara?”


Tanidoraku Takano:I don't know too many foreign Tenkara fishermen.

Because I can speak only a little English.

But now you can meet people from all over the world on Facebook.

I think Aldo Menghini is good.

He is learning about Japanese Tenkara.

There are many other good anglers.


Adam Trahan: I can think of a few, Daniel Galhardo, John Vetterli and Chris Stewart in America, Paul Gaskell, John Pearson in England, Bernhard Niedermair in Austria, Christophe’ Laurent in France, I know there are more, a lot more. People in Russia like Surgey Guryev and Igor Balakerskiy, Oleg Stryapunin in the Czech Republic, Stephen Boshoff in South Africa, people like Aldo Menghini in Italy. *I'm going to upset a lot of people that I did not include but there are too many. From my understanding, these people did not forget where tenkara came from and that is very important to telling the story of tenkara.


“Takano-san, can you tell us some of the names of the young people in tenkara that will be the future of the sport in Japan?”


Tanidoraku Takano: There are many promising young Tenkara fishermen in Japan.

For example, Kenjiro Tanaka. He is a member of tanidoraku and goes to steep mountain streams. He has not only fishing skills, but also mountaineering and climbing skills.

Also, Ryoyu Ueno has just started Tenkara, but I think he will be good at it from now on.

And Yusuke Sumi. I think he is the best Tenkara fisherman in Japan right now.

His extraordinary strength can go anywhere. 


I think that they will pass on the Tenkara fishing that Mr. Sebata and other great anglers have inherited to future generations.


Adam Trahan: I am sorry to ask you hard questions like that. I know you understand what I am trying to do.


“We talked a little bit about motocross, are there any other things that you are interested in or do?”


Tanidoraku Takano: I'm also interested in many other things.

For example, skiing.

Japan is a country with a lot of snow. There are a total of 500 ski resorts in Japan.

It is also attracting attention from overseas skiers.

I have been skiing since I was 20 years old.

I've been skiing this winter as well.

Another thing I'm interested in is photography.

Take pictures of landscapes, wild birds, motor sports, railroads, etc.

I also like mountaineering. I have climbed many mountains so far. 


Adam Trahan: I will slowly start to wrap up the questions. 


I hope to visit Japan in the next couple of years after she opens up again after the Coronavirus Pandemic. Since the pandemic has been around, I’ve been able to spend more time outdoors because it made me a little crazy having to stay isolated.


I think Japan has a major appeal to me in that I have always seen its citizens practicing community standards very well even before Coronavirus.


When I was in Tadami, we talked a little bit about how young people were leaving the country and moving to the city. The old houses like the bansho need a community of people that know how to replace the grass roofs, and specific craftsmen that take care of the structure. These crafts are not being passed down to younger generations like they have been in the past.


We have the same thing here in America. Phoenix, where I live, is about 155 years old. It is the fifth largest populated city in the United States with about 4.85 million people. Our oldest buildings are in a terrible state of repair. Some of them are taken care of and brought back to their former beauty by restoration.


Tadami bansho is older than Phoenix! It is in good repair. When I visited Shirakawa-Go and Gokayama, I stayed in a home that was 300 years old. That’s where I learned about how cool the shower toilet is.



“Takano san, can you tell us your perspective about the old and new ways?”


It is an open question meant for your interpretation. 


You can answer it any way you want, and it will be ok.


Tanidoraku Takano: Japanese young people go from the countryside like Tadami to the city.

Tokyo, Osaka and other big cities are full of fun.

Young people are always interested in new things. Unfortunately, it's not in the countryside.

There are many old buildings in Japan. It is made of wood.

Maintaining an old wooden building is difficult. It's a pity that the technology to maintain is being lost. Young people do not try to learn the technique.

The new technology is great, but I think the old technology is just as important.

Tenkara fishing, an old fishing method, is popular with young people. I hope that other things will become popular and young people will learn. 


Adam Trahan: I want to thank you for spending some time with me and answering my difficult questions. I want nothing more than for people to see that tenkara fishermen and women have all kinds of people in it.


Thank you so much for your participation.


Please feel free to say anything you want to close the interview.


Tanidoraku Takano: I never thought that Tenkara, an ancient Japanese fishing, would be loved by people all over the world.

It was unthinkable only 20 years ago.

That's made possible by a great tool called Facebook.

I am very happy to have a wonderful friend like Adam san.

I made friends all over the world through Tenkara. I'm glad I lived in the 21st century.

Finally, I wish the USA, Japan, and the world peace forever.

Let's enjoy Tenkara!

Thank you!


*There is no other publication in the world that is so inclusive of tenkara enthusiasts like tenkara-fisher. Soseki Yamamoto included many tenkara anglers in his publications, at that time, tenkara was not outside of Japan. To this day, I continue to utilize the inclusivity of Yamamoto-san but on an international scale.