I've been back for about a week now, but it feels like I'm just waking up, really. The jet lag coming back from Japan is pretty epic, something I had forgotten about from last year. But that doesn't bother me, it is well worth the price for an adventure such as this was...
I arrived early in order to spend a day and a half doing tourist stuff. I don't normally do that when I travel, but in Japan, its really fun... I visited a Cat Cafe and an owl cafe:
And yes, the owls are real. I felt a little guilty about them being tied up, but they looked to be in good shape and were giving me so much joy... thank you owls!
I wandered around some great neighborhoods before meeting up with Yu Cadowachi, who I had met online after we just missed each other in the Italian Alps last year.
We ended up visiting Tower Records, checked out some fishing stores and then headed back to Yu's neighborhood for Sushi dinner and to talk about fishing adventures. His flies were very different than most I had seen in Japan before, and were quite beautiful.
He also had tied this interesting Hedgehog Quill Kebari. Must float well with hollow quills... interesting!
The following day I met up with Adam Trahan, AKA "Adam-San," who had just visited Tsukiji Market for the Tuna auction, which should definitely be "on the list" when visiting Tokyo... its a really impactful experience. We had a simple breakfast and then headed out to find a local bamboo rod maker near our hotel before meeting up with Go Ishii, who is really quite important to this whole story, as well as to Tenkara in general... more on that later.
On the way, we found 3rd generation Samurai Bow Maker, and these are still used for competitions today. Beautiful work. We finally found the rod maker's shop a few blocks down, and I was pretty excited. But my excitement almost turned to dismay when he tried to wave us off, thinking we were just tourists :)
I dropped a few names and talked about Tenkara... he questioned me... "Tenkara!?" Yes, I repeated. "We are going to meet Sebata-San!" He must have liked something I said, because then he smiled and welcomed us in, motioning to the Tenkara rods on the wall next to the Hera rods, which had beautiful built in "line keepers" and an interline system, allowing adjustment to the length of the line... like some kind of old-school reel.
I ended up trying out a rod, and Adam-San snapped a photo:
After buying one of his hand made bait-boxes, I received a Tenugui as a gift, and we were on our way to meet Ishii-San for a top-quality Sushi lunch at Ginza Kanesaka! The chef was "waiting for us" when we got there, and he was a fun-loving kind of guy. He was working on his English, so we indulged him while he focused on making us some beautiful pieces of Sushi.
The "right" way to do it, we were both reminded, involved picking up the Sushi quickly after it got put down with our fingers (don't use chopsticks) and not dunking all the rice into the soy sauce (to prevent it from absorbing too much and overpowering the fish.)
Look at the marbling on that piece of Tuna! Yep, I was totally in heaven. I took bits of ginger and gulps of sake between the bites of Sushi, and things were looking good.
After eating a satisfying lunch, we moved on to a pretty amazing run of shopping, which was to be split across two afternoons. We started with Sansui and Joshuya in Shibuya district. It was overwhelming, to say the least. We began to stock up on some lines, tippet, hooks, things we couldn't find in the USA, and beyond...
With a quick Takoyaki & Highball break in the middle... I owe a lot of this trip's success to Ishii-San, who was kind enough to help myself and Adam-San find the best places to eat, the right fishing shops to visit, and offered advice on different pieces of gear.
He's a great guy and an extremely skilled Tenkara angler as well. Luckily he loves doing the same things we do, and was down to help us find our gear and get ready for the upcoming fishing days and backpacking trip in the mountains. There's nothing like having a guy who grew up in both Japan and the USA to speak English with, help translate the things you hear, and explain the culture when it needed to be explained. Thank you!
Over the course of the next two days, Adam-San and I learned about a lot of Japanese fishing gear and bought some equipment...
Oogled over some Tsurikichi Sanpei Prints...
Met up with Sakurai-San of Sakura and Yoshida-San of Yoshida Kebari...
Visited the Pokemon center...
...and generally we had a blast doing all sorts of fun things. Tokyo was certainly awesome - almost like NYC in the 80's, with less crime. But it had been humid, hot, and a little rainy, and we were ready to head into the mountains for "part 2" of our adventure in Japan!