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The Tenkara Lifestyle

On August 2, 2013
Comments (12)

Ryan Jordan wrote a wonderful piece on his blog called “Tenkaranicity”.

I suppose I like Tenkara because it’s a little bit on the fringe, but I think I like it more because it reflects a deeper simplicity that I’d like to achieve in other areas of life. In other words, I’d like to bring a little bit of Tenkaranicity to my home, my garage, my office, and even my locker of backpacking gear.” writes Ryan.

Tenkara like many other activities (think climbing, surfing, backpacking, …) is more than “just” fishing for a lot of people. Sure, it is a fishing method – most certainly it is not a religion nor a martial art – though, to be honest, I have a real hard time calling fishing of any sort a sport either. As some comedian has put it “fishing may be the only sport where the other player doesn’t know it is playing”.

Tenkara connected Any activity that deeply connects with people has a chance to become a part of  their lives. Without the need for them to explicitly say it, it becomes a part of their lifestyle. The enthusiastic climber can’t stop thinking about the craig he will visit next; his hands are callused; he often wears the practical clothing marketed to his tribe; he plans trips with the intent to visit specific climbing areas; he talks of the tough dihedral he climbed over the weekend and talks in admiration about the latest feats pulled by Dean Potter. He may also talk in admiration about the pioneers of climbing who started the sport-climbing movement in Yosemite Valley in the 70s, or about the StoneMasters!  Like Ryan, the enthusiastic climber may also wish to bring some of “climbinicity” to his home, perhaps screw some climbing gym holds to some studs on the wall.

Tenkara by Yuzo SebataTenkara has that effect on many people too. It is a method of fishing that has all the elements to engage a very large number of people – for different reasons. Tenkara has a long history and tradition that accompanies it. It has a story of being introduced outside of Japan. It has some of the coolest tools. It has the element of contrast (simpler when compared other methods of fishing). It goes well with other activities such as backpacking, kayaking, and even climbing. And it has a growing and welcoming community.

For example, you may hear Lance Gurney talking about how tenkara got him to thinking about simplifying things in his life. You may hear from dozens of people on the forum, on our Facebook page or the Tenkara Anglers Facebook group about how tenkara got them to include fly-fishing in their lives, either again or for the first time.  And, of course, tenkara has also been one of  the greatest activities for families to do together and teach their young that life doesn’t have to be that complicated. I feel super honored that introducing tenkara here has enriched the lives of many of them in one way or another. Tenkara has shown something new to just about everyone who has given it a try.

Tenkara by John GierachWe know a lot of people for whom fly-fishing looked like nothing but a sport done by old middle-aged while males, but they saw how tenkara made fishing accessible and decided to try it. We know a huge number of people who have been backpacking most of their lives but for whom fly-fishing seemed like a distraction comprised of gear, then they discovered how minimalist and simple fly-fishing can be through tenkara and decided to adopt it. We also know a good number of people who never thought about fly-fishing in their lives, but who have always been interested in Japanese culture, so they decided to try fly-fishing because of tenkara’s Japanese influence, and then they got hooked. And, of course, we know well a very large number of people who have been fly-fishing their entire lives but then saw something unique in tenkara – maybe its advantages in the type of water they fish, maybe the opportunity to simplify their fly-fishing, or perhaps just a portable tool for specific waters.

The coolest thing about tenkara is that there is something in tenkara for everyone. For some it will be just another tool in their fly-fishing lifestyle. For a few people it will be a way to catch food. For others tenkara will become a part of their lifestyle. And, for others yet, it will be simply another excuse to get out.

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12 Responses to The Tenkara Lifestyle

  1. Michaela says:


    without going into a lot of words,First let me thank you again for
    introducing tenkara to the USA, I have studied Japanese culture
    in my passion for Haiku and Tanka poetry which like Tenkara is
    simplified and is a way of life. I now have Tenkara another passion and another way of life. I love it….thank you

  2. Jason Klass says:

    Good post! While anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with tenkara, it’s hard for me to gauge if I really live a “tenkara lifestyle”.

    I mean I don’t have a tenkara tattoo or anything. But, I’ve got a tenkara custom license plate and some other off-stream things that would deem me a tenkara angler. I’m just not sure what the ratio is to confirm it as a lifestyle.

    I think maybe I already had my lifestyle picked out and tenkara just happened to match it so it was a perfect fit and that’s why I adopted it.

    I like simple design so tenkara gear matches that. I’m impatient (especially when it comes to fishing) so the fast setup was also appealing. And I love efficiency (another thing tenkara excels in).

    • Jason,
      I think that’s another cool thing about the “tenkara lifestyle”. It is subtle, maybe humble, and most importantly it is already a part of who many of us are…it just gave us a word to help describe it.

  3. David Taylor says:

    GREAT post!!!!
    I was Tenkara fishing last year but like the rest of the world, I was living a hectic lifestyle. In February I had a heart attack & knew things had to change. Things had to slow down and I needed to live a more simpler lifestyle.
    I have now rediscovered Tenkara and embrace everything about it. I hope to, as Jason put it, live a more “Tenkara lifestyle”!

    Also a big THANK YOU to Daniel for bringing Tenkara to us!

  4. David, man, happy you pulled through okay and that tenkara has helped in some way.

  5. martin says:

    One of the best posts ever. I’m so glad that Daniel introduced and popularized Tenkara in the US. I’m having a blast not only when going just fishing, but when I’m hiking.

  6. Jeremy (achilles38) says:

    Great and enlightening post. When I started tenkara fishing in the spring of 2012 I never thought a year/summer later I’d be standing in Henry’s Fork, 10′ from my wife, both of us in waders with our tenkara rods, catching rainbows, or that as soon as we got home from 2.5 weeks camping/fishing in MT & ID that my wife and 3 kids would ask when was the next time we’d be going fishing and camping again. And that all of them would have their own tenkara rods.
    It’s changed our outlook on fishing, as well as our pace of life and simplifying things, especially since we live in Southern CA, and it’s all been for the better! It’s subtle like you mention, and I believe was already a desire we had, but just needed some tenkara coaxing to be realized.

    Thanks Daniel! I owe you an ice cold frosty one!

  7. Jeremy (achilles38) says:

    How bout we meet in 2014, late Septemberishhh, maybe near Boulder??? hahaha

  8. Roy says:

    My tenkara rod travels velcroed to the top tube of my bike often. A lot of places I ride have creeks or rivers along the trail

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