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Tattoos are permanent and, as it’s become obvious, so is the passion anglers feel for tenkara.
Today we learned of the 5th person to get a tenkara tattoo,Chris Fahrenbruch. Chris says, ” [It] just felt it was appropriate considering I fish Tenkara. And while not completely into the Japanese culture I do have a respect for it (I own a real Samurai sword and entire Samurai armor set) and lived in Okinawa for 2 years. Got it on the right arm beings I’m right handed and hold my Tenkara rod with the right hand. I feel like it will increase my Tenkara “Zen Level” up a few notches Besides that, Tenkara just fits with the way I have always viewed fly fishing. Sure it’s not always appropriate for some of the conditions I fish in, but overall it just feels right.”
Here’s a gallery of the other tattoos done so far:
Adam Trahan of Tenkara-Fisher.com decided to join the brotherhood of inked tenkara anglers this week with a beautiful tenkara sakasa kebari on his forearm. I feel honored he’d join in with a similar design to what I got on my arm a couple of weeks ago, it will be fun to see the two tenkara flies on our arms meet one of these days.
The thing about a tattoo is complete commitment. You better be ready to live with your choices for the rest of your life. In having a “Tenkara Tattoo” I have made a commitment to myself, for life. Tenkara stands for many things, not only fishing but a way of looking at life. Bringing things to their most simple form and finding security in this choice. Life is complex enough, making choices as simple and as pure as possible, the tattoo stands for that too. Ultimately, I chose my tattoo design out of my love for fishing. Tenkara being the form of fishing that represents the beginning, practice of and the idea that I can do it the rest of my life. The kebari design, I chose if from Yoshikazu Fujioka who I meet online in 1997 and have enjoyed his aesthetic since then. The Takayama Sakasa Kebari is a drawing that he sent to me for my fly tying box some time ago. When I saw Daniel had the same tattoo on his forearm, I knew that this is the design that I wanted, especially since the movement of the arm makes the tattoo move like the kebari does in the water. It is also a nod of respect to Daniel for having introduced this complete type of fishing (and it’s discipline of simplicity) to myself and to the world. My tattoo is a personal choice in displaying my love for Tenkara, and a show of total and complete commitment of the idea.
- Adam Trahan
For the last 14 years, just about half of my life, I have thought of getting a tattoo. I know it is a permanent thing, so I certainly never felt the need to rush it. Yet, I knew when the time was right I would get a permanent mark, and it would be something that would mean a great deal to me.
For the last 4 years I have been dedicated to introducing tenkara outside of Japan. As I turn 30 (today), I feel that I have accomplished some important milestones in my life. And, I have also reached some very significant milestones for Tenkara USA. These milestones have been made even clearer over the last few weekends attending Fly Fishing Shows, where I have been reminded that tenkara has actually meant a lot to so many people. Just watch this video, and this other to get a glimpse. So much in fact that two folks got tenkara tattoos before I did.
As I anxiously anticipated my thirtieth birthday, I decided it was time to just do it. As the year turned, I started to constantly think about the design and placement of my tattoo. I thought of getting a drawing of Boulder’s Flatirons to mark moving here and getting a new home. I thought of getting the Tenkara USA logo done. And I have thought of a bunch of other things. It should be noted here, too, that my very first design concept came when I was 16 years old and I personally drew a rainbow trout that I wanted done on my back – so even the theme didn’t deviate a whole lot.
As of yesterday evening I still didn’t have a clear idea of what it would be. I had resigned to the fact that it wouldn’t be on my birthday.
Then, this morning I woke up with a very clear idea. It would be a “sakasa kebari”, the iconic tenkara fly that is simple to tie, pulsates when you twitch it, and to me also symbolizes how tenkara went in the opposite direction of the rest of the industry. And, I knew exactly which fly to do, it would be Mr. Yoshikazu Fujioka’s illustration for the cover magazine of Fishing Cafe, a Japanese magazine in which I appeared.
As the day wore on, and I tried to meet some important deadlines, it was becoming less and less likely that it would happen on my 30th birthday. But, I figure, I’ll at least go meet the artists and see what they say. As I’m leaving home, at 5:15pm, I tell my wife, Margaret, “I’m stepping out for a bit…er..gonna get a tattoo.”
“REALLY?” – Yes, as of this afternoon she didn’t know whether I’d finally get it done or not. “Oh, I have made plans for us at 7pm. Can you be back by then?
“Oh…sure. I’m probably just going to make an appointment for tomorrow.”
I arrive at the very nice tattoo shop (Rising Tide, in Boulder, actually the classiest and coolest tattoo place I have seen), and tell them I’d love to get this done today, but understand if they can’t. And, to my surprise they had one guy available (Adrian Holcomb), who could do it and really liked the idea.
Ah, and the placement, it would be on my forearm. One reason I had been hesitating about getting a tattoo is that most hot-springs in Japan do not allow guests with a visible tattoo to enter. I absolutely love the onsen, and did not want to give up on them. A tattoo on the forearm would be pretty easy to conceal.
Plus, there was another, more important reason for this placement. I wanted my tenkara fly to pulsate, like the real thing. I had first thought of having the fly drawn right at the bend of the elbow. But, as I talked to the artist I realized that would be (a) super painful, and (b) it would not hold up well. As we played with the design and exact placement, it became clear that we could accomplish the exact same motion by placing the tattoo right below the elbow. And, it worked. So, I give you a moving tattoo:
How do I feel about it? I love it. Love that it was a small, simple yet meaningful fly. Love that it marks some important milestones achieved. And, love how there is a great, and quite long, story to tell from this one little drawing.
But, here we are writing about one more person who fell in love with tenkara enough to get a tenkara tattoo! This time Kevin Brooks out in Alabama decided to get the katakana characters for tenkara (テンカラ) on his left arm. I asked him about the story behind the tattoo and he replied: “I have been thru a lot the last three years with my health and for sometime had a hard time fishing cause it hurt so bad. So when I tried tenkara, it did not hurt my back as bad and I could fish longer. Man talk about a blessing! So I read everything I could about it and when I read FROM HEAVEN I wanted it where I could remind myself where my blessing came from.”
I feel like it’s a great honor to see the ink on their skin symbolizing tenkara. It’s just way too cool. But, it does put some responsibility on us to ensure Brian and Kevin never regret having the tenkara name permanently etched on their skin.
“OK, yep its real. my middle daughter designed it for my bday.”
This was the response Brian Howerton gave me when I asked him about his tattoo. On his very first post to our forum, there was no “hello there”, or “is this really fly-fishing?”, just the image of his newest, very rad tattoo. An obvious sign of a passion for tenkara. One of the things I’m proudest of in the creation of Tenkara USA is the community developed around it. Not everyone posts on the forum, like Brian, whose first post was the shocker above, but I feel that every single customer we’ve had is out there talking about tenkara to their friends. The community is just awesome, and this is an incredible example of it.
As Brian explained, he and his daughter “did a three day backpacking trip in August, it was during that trip we discussed tattoo ideas while killing time in the tent I think. She designed this based on that talk with me just doing the general layout. She wanted it to look painted on with a brush, even tried to simulate brushstrokes.” On the top left you’ll find our logo – Brian, hope we make you proud to carry that in your arm forever! – then a very neat design of the sakasa kebari (reverse hackle fly) below it, and on the right side are markings from 9 to 18 inches, which is how he’s measured fish for many years.
Brian has been fly-fishing for 15 years and discovered tenkara 2 years ago when he “bought the Iwana because it will fit in my motorcycle mostly. First five minutes using it I caught a 17″ bow and loved it since. Take the darn thing everywhere I go where there is any chance for even a half hour of fishing.”
The tattoo is just the outward sign of his ambassadorship for tenkara: “I talk up Tenkara to anyone who will listen, got the bumpersticker on the jeep and the window sticker on my lunchbox. Handed out the Tenkara ‘ambasador’ cards the week I got them to any friend who fishes, only one bought a rod though. Kebari flies are my wallpaper on my facebook and work computers. Yea, Im addicted to it. ”
Pretty cool Brian, pretty cool! If you visit Japan you may not be allowed into their onsen (hot-springs), but this will definitely be a good conversation starter with any yakusa-turned-tenkara-angler over there.
P.S.: no, we did not pay Brian to get the tenkara tattoo, but will be sending him a gift!