Why buy Japanese tenkara rods - rods made by a Japanese company?
In a word, quality.
A Japanese tenkara rod has hundreds of years of tradition behind it. And by that I don't just mean a tradition of fixed line fishing, there is also a tradition of customer service, of producing a product that will please the customer - first time and every time.
People often ask me if the rods have warranties, as if they expect them to break. Most Japanese rods don't carry a warranty, not because the rods aren't good enough to have one but because they're good enough to not need one. Japanese customers have come to rely on the quality of the rod itself. A few of the high end rods do have warranties, but I'm told that Japanese anglers almost never use them (never need them).
It's actually the same here. I've been selling the excellent Daiwa Enshou tenkara rods for over three years now. The Enshou rods do have a warranty, but in three years, I've had exactly one warranty claim. One.
I've sold the premium Nissin Zerosum tenkara rods for two years. They also are covered by warranty. In two years I have not had one warranty claim on a Zerosum rod. Not one.
You don't need a warranty. What you need is a quality rod - one made by a company that doesn't expect their rods to break, that doesn't expect (and allow for) manufacturing defects.
But don't discount the fishing tradition either. Tenkara is a centuries old Japanese fishing style. For hundreds of years, anglers painstakingly fashioned tenkara rods from native bamboo, using a different species of bamboo for each rod section, chosen specifically for the bending characteristics of that species and the requirements of that section.
As commercial fishing disappeared and recreational fishing grew, rod companies in Japan began making tenkara rods from fiberglass and then from carbon fiber. The top companies in Japan: Daiwa, Shimano, Gamakatsu, Nissin, have been making making tenkara rods for decades.
There is a tremendous amount of "institutional knowledge" within each company on how to make rods. How to make them strong, how to make them light and how to make them to satisfy the world's most demanding customers. In addition to the in-house engineers, they have had access to the world's best and most experienced tenkara anglers to help in the design process. Dr. Ishigaki, Yuzo Sebata, Hiromichi Fuji - Japanese masters, each with decades of experience, have consulted on rod designs for the Japanese companies.
that with the rods produced by American companies. Over the last six
years, a lot of small companies have sprung up and
are offering tenkara rods - in some cases the very same rod with a
different name and paint job. It is actually surprisingly easy to have a tenkara rod made in China with your own name and logo. How much rod design experience do you need? None. How long has the Chinese factory been making tenkara rods? No one knows. Experience? Who needs experience if you've got snazzy marketing?
At TenkaraBum.com you won't find snazzy marketing. There aren't many slick videos. There isn't a booth at every fly show. Announcements aren't endlessly retweeted by (who are these people)? What you will find is a nice selection of rods for tenkara, keiryu and seiryu fishing - all of which are made by Japanese companies with lots of experience. Many were actually made in Japan.
The Japanese buy from all over the world, and they buy quality. In the shopping districts in Japan you can find the the best of everything the world has to offer. American fly rods are quite popular in Japan. Just as the Japanese buy American fly rods, they could buy American tenkara rods - and they certainly would if the rods were better than the Japanese rods. They don't because they aren't. They buy tenkara rods from Nissin, Shimano, Diawa, etc. They buy keiryu and seiryu rods from those companies and from Suntech. If you want the best, follow the tradition. Go to the source.