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Harada Takezao (can be translated into English as Harada Bamboo Rod) is located in south of Osaka where is not far from a sacred Buddhist place which is called Koyasan.

Katsumi makes his rods mostly with madake that he harvests by himself in Koyasan. Madake is tall and thick bamboo that grows up to sixty-five feet tall and six inches in diameter at their max. The wazao uses madake for its tip because it is sensitive but still has a higher response rate than other bamboos. Katsumi uses madake for that same reason.

“If you compare madake with Tonkin, madake has more bending capability. I use madake because I love a parabolic rod. When you cast a madake rod, you will feel the butt bend well. The power will be transmitted slowly toward the tip, and this slow speed makes a fly turn over, even when used with a long tippet.”

It is often said that the bamboo rod has a higher catching rate than the graphite rod once a fish is hooked. A slow response can handle the power waves from many different directions. If this logic is correct, madake has an even higher catching rate than Tonkin.

His rod has a uniquely shaped reel seat filler. He once noticed his hand was uncomfortable while casting because of the small bump between grip and reel seat filler. That gap hurts his right palm. He wanted to improve it. He stopped using a common round filler and curved it to an oval flattened shape. I like it because it looks like a miniature artwork done by Antoni Gaudy to my eyes.

“It is more time-consuming work than it seems, but I am sure there are many fly fishers who feel the same way I did, uncomfortable while casting.”

“Yes, I often had some pressed lines in my palm after fishing.”

“We bamboo rod makers often think there is no room for improvement on the bamboo rod. But never. If we just keep doing what we did for years, we forget that the maker’s mission is to make users happier.”

*This article was extracted from “Mostly Bamboo” by courtesy of the author.

Hideto uses urushi for varnishing rods. As far as I know, there are only a few other makers in Japan who use urushi for the vanishing. Some use urushi, but only for the second layer beneath the vanishing surface to accomplish higher water resistance (such as Kakuhiro Rod). Urushi is a natural liquid that was extracted from the urushi tree. The English word “lacquer” originally meant urushi. Urushi is one of the oldest Japanese liquids applied onto wooden products that needed a waterproof surface such as soup bowls. The oldest urushi product in the world was found in Japan, and the recent study suggests it was around 8,600 B.C. when it was made.

As I mentioned earlier, urushi is a very difficult liquid to handle. Many people are severely allergic to urushi.

There are several ways to apply urushi onto the rod. Hideto wipes the rod with a cloth that was soaked in urushi. That method is called polishing urushi.

Hideto explained, “You can buy a bottle of urushi for $20, but you have to buy a $100 bottle if you want to make a beautiful bamboo rod. Like wines, you will pay more if you need an excellent one. I only use urushi made in Japan. Urushi is not a plant indigenous to Japan, so you can get Chinese urushi. But the climate of continental China is totally different from one of our islands’ climate. Our islands are wetter than China. I believe now the air in this room has 62% humidity. This does not happen in China except on the coastline.”

*This article was extracted from “Mostly Bamboo” by courtesy of the author.

Kakuhiro decided to abandon Tonkin and go with Japanese bamboo. The most common Japanese bamboo is madake, the second is mosochiku, and the third is hachiku. Mosochiku was far less practical, because it has the thickest diameter with thin surface fiber, and the length between each node was terribly short.

He tried both madake and hachiku bamboo and found hachiku was better to accomplish the action that he needed.

“I fell in love with hachiku. It is lighter, but still keeps enough strength at the surface. I believed I could make the best bamboo rod ever to catch Japanese trout with hachiku.”

After much trial and error, Kakuhiro finally could make all the processes repeatable to keep the quality at the same level.

“It is never easy to make the same rod one after another. There is no bamboo in the world that is consistently the same. Every single bamboo has its own character. In those days that I used Tonkin, I never felt comfortable because I could not see or confirm beforehand what I was going to use. It was not like a carbon sheet that was under the quality control of a big Japanese chemical company. It was like a gamble. But I was released from that nightmare once I decided on hachiku as my life partner. Now I can shop for bamboo in my city.”

*This article was extracted and translated from “Mostly Bamboo” by courtesy of the author.

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