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Tenkara Tattoo 3: The moving tenkara fly by TUSA founder

On January 31, 2013
Comments (14)

Tenkara Tattoo - Sakasa Kebari Tenkara Fly

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.

Tenkara Tattoo image of tenkara fly

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:

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.

Was it painful? A tiny bit.

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14 Responses to Tenkara Tattoo 3: The moving tenkara fly by TUSA founder

  1. Gerry Romer says:

    Nicely done, Daniel. Happy Birthday !!

  2. Lance Milks says:

    Tattoos are unspoken words. Being Tuscarora (native American) tattoos tell an important story about who you are. In other cultures they mark milestones in life or symbolize accomplishments. Your tattoo is an example of all of those. Welcome to the tribe.

  3. Jason Klass says:

    Ouch! I’m terrified of needles so a tattoo is my worst nightmare. You’re braver than I

    • Jason, I’m really not good with needles either, almost passed out twice in the past when taking blood, but this was different. Plus, I’m scheduled to take a cortisone shot on my shoulder today, so I figured I could handle this.

  4. Lance Gurney says:

    WOW, very nice, looking forward to seeing in action at the Summit.

  5. Jeremy says:

    Once while playing outside with nephew #1 we came across a Praying Mantis. It crawled onto his shoulder. The sun produced a perfect shadow of the king of bugs. This I thought would make a cool Tattoo. I have never really considered getting one. But with all of the meaning that goes with the Sakasa Kebari for you I think it’s a nice choice.
    Happy Birthday too!

  6. Ben says:

    Very nice Daniel!

  7. TJ Ferreira says:

    You should ask Margaret to get a tattoo on her arm, maybe a small Iwana, in the same spot but opposite arm, so when you walk hand-N-hand, your kebari will look like it is enticing her Iwana.

    Husband and wife tats.



    • TJ, she got a great laugh out of this one.
      I’m already envisioning doing a tenkara rod on the front of my body with the line coming down my arm to the fly, and then her arm with a trout eyeing the fly. That would be super!

  8. Adam says:

    A very meaningful tatoo, as it should be.

    I am glad that you prefaced the caveats of the tatoo and onsen as you have. I am headed in that direction and am teetering on the brink of a bublicly visible sakasa kebari tatoo… I believe I will move it a bit closer to my heart as in my world, tattoos are still taboo.

    Fitting that you would choose Yoshikazu’s drawing.

    Mine will be one I drew myself.

    Very cool Daniel.

    It would be cool to have it done with the artist you had yours done by. I’ll find a good one here in Phoenix, maybe a picture or two of it being done as you have.

    Excited to have it done, as it should be.

    Thanks for sharing Daniel.

    Happy Birthday.

    For Jetemy; Perry (Janes Addiction) has a Mantis on his right shoulder, should be east to find an image.

    • Adam,
      Thank you very much for the comment and write up on your site. I enjoyed reading your words about it and reinforced the fact that it was a good choice of design.
      Indeed the sakasa Kebari does reflect a brotherhood if you will, it has a lot of meaning and a good story. Would love to know if you end up getting one someday.



  9. Adam says:

    iPad predictive text errors in spelling, sorry.

    TJ’s remark was interesting, I like it.

    Of course, fishing is an integral part of my life, a tatoo of my favorite hook will be a good choice.

    The hackle action is just too cool.

  10. Jeremy says:

    Adam I always liked Janes Addiction. Thanks found it!
    TJ very good idea.
    Daniel we all await a caught fish picture next to your Tattoo!

  11. Adam says:

    Mine swims happily on my arm, same as yours Daniel.

    Very cool idea, thank you.

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