Edo bamboo fishing rods

Edo bamboo fishing rods Edo wazao

Traditional techniques of Edo
Make long-lasting items loved by all


What is Edo bamboo fishing rods ?

Edo wazao are fishing rods that are produced in the Kanto region, mainly Tokyo and the prefectures of Chiba and Saitama. This craft is named after the Edo lineage of the craftsmen and not the production area of Edo (now Tokyo).
It is made from several different types of bamboo enabling production of a wide variety of rod types for catching fish. By assembling different combinations of bamboo types such as hoteitake, yadake, hachiku, and madake, a assortment of rods can be made to perfectly suit different fish, fishing techniques, and water conditions. Jointed rods allow easy repair or replacement of a broken section and give longevity to the rod. Natural lacquer is applied, making the rods both durable and exceedingly beautiful. During the Edo period (1603-1868), feudal lords who were hobbyist fishers competed with each other over having beautiful decoration. Also, various workshops have developed their own signature decorative finishes.
Maintenance of rods is simple as after wiping mud and water, they just need to be polished with a dry cloth and dried in the shade. These sturdy, light, and attractive rods can be used for many years.


The technique of making jointed rods was developed in the middle of the Edo period. In 1788, Taichiya TOSAKU opened his Edo wazao workshop near Kotokuji Temple in Ueno, Tokyo. Later, his apprentices left to become independent, and current craftsmen can trace their ancestry back to that era. The city of Edo is blessed with a large shallow bay and fishing rivers that were enjoyed by local people. Especially during the whiting fishing season of May and June, seeing anglers sit on top of their stepladders in the shallow bay was common. Each season had its favored fish species, which presented distinct challenges to the anglers and required numerous rod types.
To increase their durability, lacquer was applied to the Edo wazao but the results were so attractive, that further decoration was applied. By the late Edo period, these humble fishing rods had reached the level of artistic craft. Afterward, from the 1930s until the late 1940s, fishing rods decorated in a Western style were produced. During the postwar era, the crafts were popular as souvenirs for the occupation forces and the industry peaked. However, with the advent of fiber glass and carbon rods, demand for the traditional Edo wazao has decreased and with a shortage of successors, many workshops have disappeared. In recent years, increasing numbers of people are appreciating the supple and beautiful handmade rods produced by master craftsmen.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Drying in the sun More than ten varieties of bamboo are used to make rods, such as yadake, hoteitake, hachiku, and madake. Craftsmen collect bamboo and after scraping the outer layer and removing the oil, leave it in the sun to dry for about one to three months.
  2. 2. Cutting and combining The type of fish, fishing technique, and condition of the water will have an ideal style of rod known to the craftsman and bamboo of several different varieties is selected for one rod. The craftsman considers the overall length and condition of the rod, the types of bamboo, joint sections, and the length of individual sections, before cutting bamboo and preparing combinations.
  3. 3. Heating and straightening the bamboo Each section is warmed over a charcoal fire to release oil, oozing oil is wiped away, and the bamboo continues to be heated until it turns golden brown, and a wooden tool is used to straighten any curves. When bamboo is heated, water is evaporated leaving the section dry and strong. This is a skilled task as each type of bamboo requires a different heating time to dry off the moisture and attain the same strength and degree of firmness.
  4. 4. Shaving and winding thread To join bamboos of varying thickness, the joint sections and node surfaces of the bamboo are shaved. Japanese lacquer is applied to the joint sections in preparation for wrapping on silk thread to reinforce and prevent cracking or splitting. While rotating the bamboo with the left hand, the silk thread is pulled with the right hand and tightly wound around with no gap and any unevenness is adjusted. Animal glue is applied to the thread, which is then pressed and tightened with a wooden tool. Then, a lacquer undercoat is applied. The same process is applied to every section of the rod.
  5. 5. Joining The prepared sections are now joined together. Typical joints are ferrule joints and telescopic joints. In a ferrule joint, a spigot is made at one end and a socket is created by shaving the inside of the bamboo so that the two parts fit perfectly. In a telescopic joint, to increase the strength of even a thin bamboo stem, a yadake bamboo core is inserted into the spigot before joining. When joining, skill is required to ensure the fishing rod has good flexibility and does not rattle when casting a line.
  6. 6. Preparation for lacquering Before the final coats of lacquer, small detailed tasks are finished such as inserting a plug in the end of the rod, and attaching a tip to the pointed end for catching the fish.
  7. 7. Second straightening The rod is assembled and straightened.
  8. 8. Lacquering Lacquer adds color to the joint sections and the tip of the rod. The lacquer is filtered through traditional Japanese paper to remove impurities, and careful attention is applied during application to avoid any dust. The style of coloring gives each craftsman a chance to express their individuality.
  9. 9. Wipe lacquering While rotating the rod, lacquer is applied with fingers which is a technique characteristic of Edo wazao. Lacquer is rubbed into the rod, immediately wiped off, and it is left to dry in a drying chamber. This process is repeated to apply several layers of lacquer.
  10. 10. Finishing The craftsman gives the rod a thorough final inspection and makes any fine adjustments. Oil is rubbed onto the spigot and then wiped off, before a final coat of lacquer and wiping to complete the rod.

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