For 99 per cent of my life I had zero interest in fishing. I ski, hike, camp, climb and mountain bike, so dragging a green plastic wheelbarrow full of tackle to the dingy edge of a post-industrial canal in order to slowly stew in hipflask whisky on a creaking fold-out chair was never my idea of an outdoor pursuit.
Then I discovered Tenkara.
It came from a growing interest in bushcraft. Not from a paranoid prepper point of view, but from a desire to somehow connect to the environments I so often take for granted when I’m pedalling or skinning through them. ‘Survival’ is an overly-aggressive concept nowadays, but for generations of humans who developed what we might call ‘survival techniques’ it was simply living. And learning those techniques, reversing the recent divorce between us and nature, is addictive. In the modern parlance it promotes ‘mindfulness,’ but as we’re talking about a Japanese tradition, let’s stick with the good old-fashioned word ‘zen’.
And Tenkara is quintessentially Japanese. It’s minimalist, elegant, focused, and borne of a somewhat mysterious tradition.