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.

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