Oni Tenkara School

Just What is Oni School? 

By John Vetterli

Tenkara Guides LLC

Team Oni USA LLC

In the summer of 2014, John Vetterli and Erik Ostrander of Tenkara Guides LLC embarked on a journey to Japan to meet and fish with legendary tenkara master angler Masami Sakakibara a.k.a.Tenkara no Oni.

This trip was a life changing adventure deep into Japanese mountain culture and tenkara.

During the time we spent on the water learning Oni Tenkara, a bond began to develop and John and Erik became dedicated students or Deishi to Masami Sakakibara. We and Robert Worthing have spent the past 6 years working, studying, learning everything Masami has to teach. He is passing on his complete Oni Tenkara system to us so we can carry it forward here in the USA.

Part of our new found obligation to our teacher and mentor was the creation of Oni Tenkara School (Oni School).

We created this school to pass on the Master’s techniques, philosophy, and wisdom he has gained from more than 40 years of mastering the art and science of tenkara.

The Oni Schools are an intense, immersive tenkara experience limited to 20 students. It is a three day on the water class. No PowerPoint lectures, no conference rooms, no casting ponds with stupid hulahoops, not even a single chair to sit on. We start early in the morning each day and end at dinner time in the evenings.

Each student gets one-on-one hands on instruction from Masami Sakakibara and his students John, Erik, and Rob provide additional instruction in Oni Tenkara.

2019 marks the 5 year anniversary of Oni Tenkara School. This is significant when you take into account that tenkara is celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary in the United States. For half of tenkara’s history outside of Japan, Tenkara Guides LLC has been bringing the greatest living Japanese tenkara angler here to the States to give as many people as possible the opportunity to learn Japanese tenkara from the best in the world.

Each day the group meets at Sundance Mountain Resort, the ski resort owned by Oscar winning actor/director Robert Redford.

Day one starts with lawn casting where Masami gives instruction on the finer points of his casting techniques and works with each student individually to get a feel for exactly what level each student is at in their casting. Masami keeps detailed written notes on each student and tailors his instruction to you and what you are ready to learn. After casting lesson, we pack up and head to the river for an entire day on the water.

Each day follows a similar routine with a change in river location to study different methods and techniques.

Hot gourmet lunches are provided each day and lunch has become one of the most amazing periods of the day. This is unlike any other tenkara event. Students begin to bond and some lifelong friendships have started on the river eating lunch at Oni School.

Many students meet up for dinner and after hours entertainment each night.

By the end of the school, we guarantee that you will be sunburned, exhausted, well fed, your tenkara world rocked, and new friendships built.

The one thing we didn’t expect when we launched the first Oni School 5 years ago are the intense personal connections the students make with each other, the 3 of us from Tenkara Guides, and Masami Sakakibara. It’s one thing to friend someone on social media, it is another thing to share an experience together in the wild. To make a real connection with other anglers. It changes people’s lives.

We average about a 85% repeat student rate. Many students have attended all 5 years.

I guess that means we are doing something right.

This is not a fishing trip, it is an educational experience. Success is not measured in fish size or quantity. It is measured in the personal skill progression of each student.

Oni Tenkara School has been an amazing ride for Tenkara Guides LLC. It has been our pleasure to bring this experience to life and share our passion for Oni Tenkara with each of you who attend.

A few notes about our teacher and mentor Masami Sakakibara.

Masami is a deeply passionate angler and teacher who holds no secrets. He wants to share everything he knows and continues to learn with his students. He has a great sense of humor, he is a lot of fun to be with, and I feel beyond fortunate to be his Deishi. It sounds corny but it is the truth, Masami has become more than a friend, he is a member of my family.

When you step into your waders and stand in the river with Masami at your side, you have joined the Oni School Family. We are all connected to each other on and off the water. We are family.

If you haven’t attended one of the Oni Schools yet, please seriously consider it. It is unique and special. That has nothing to do with Tenkara Guides, Masami Sakakibara, or the river. It has everything to do with the bonds of the students.

Oni School 2019 dates are August 1-3 (This class is full)

A second tentative class is set for August 5-7. There are still student spots available for this class.

Contact us at info@tenkaraguides.com to register.

Hope to see you on the water soon, 

John Vetterli

Tenkara Guides LLC

Team Oni USA LLC 

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