December 8, 2015

Tenkara Tanuki "Black Beauty" 375 tenkara rod -- review, part I

I recently received a new tenkara rod that I purchased. It is the Tenkara Tanuki  375 "Black Beauty".  It is a tenkara rod designed in California by Luong Tam, an engineer by education and trade, and produced in China. According to John Vetterli, of Tenkara Guides LLC, Tam has "sourced the very highest quality raw materials" for this rod. Tam brought a few of the rods to the Tenkara Guides Oni School 2015 and many of the participants got to try the rods first hand. I was there but didn't get to use the rod. I heard great reviews from the group participants, however.

From here

The rod is very handsome. It certainly doesn't look like any other Chinese produced rod that I have seen, unless you count those made in China for some of the large Japanese rods makers. This rod does not appear to be another "me too" Chinese tenkara rod.

It is glossy black in finish and comes in a plastic carton just like Japanese rods do. There is also a black rod sleeve included. The ends of each segment are reinforced with a double hatched carbon fiber pattern and adorned with two subtle red accent rings.

Reinforcing at the tipward part of each segment (except tip segment)

The handle is EVA foam, camel or gourd shaped and is two toned for aesthetics. The word "Tanuki" and the "circular fish" motif are formed into the butt portion of the handle, while Tam's hanko and Japanese lettering is formed in the grey upper end of the handle. They are neat and clean and very nicely done. The handle is 28 cm long. The winding check is nickel chrome and fits tightly to the handle.

The tip plug is nickel chrome and has the flared profile of many of the other Chinese made rods that I have seen. It is hollow and feels a little "cheap" to me. Mine was somewhat loose and came out of the rod during shipping, and therefore the segments were free to rattle around inside the plastic carton. Fortunately nothing was broken. The Tenkara Tanuki circular fish motif is engraven on its top (rather than the usual faux stone insert) and there is a small loop of extra lilian material attached. The butt cap is reminiscent of the small butt cap of an Oni rod. It is nickel chrome, slightly knurled, and has a coin slot to aid in removal. A rubber bumper is present as well as a very small air hole.

The lilian is red, of useful length, and is attached to the tip section with a well executed glue joint. The first section (tip) can be withdrawn completely through the second section for total disassembly of the rod. This aids in drying and cleaning.

Here are some specs that I have measured:

Collapsed length (with tip plug): 59.5 cm
Extended length: 378 cm
Weight (without tip cap): 76.8 g
CCS measurement: 16 pennies
RFI: 4.3
Rotational moment: 5.4

The action of the rod is smooth, yet brisk and responsive. It cast a #3 level line perfectly with no overshoot or oscillation. The bend profile is that of a slower 6:4, yet not as stiff and unyielding as many of Chinese made copy-cat tenkara 6:4 rods out there. The action and balance point are similar to that of my Oni type I, yet this rod is just a hair faster in recovery than the Oni type I.

So far I think this rod is quite amazing. I'm not so much into the little "bling" things like the stamped hanko and lettering on the foam handle, but they don't bother me either. They are done with taste and style and don't over power the rod's overall appearance. I also don't care for the "cheap" tip plug; I prefer solid wood, but hey, that's just me -- maybe everyone else will be just fine with the tip plug as it is. Other than that, I really like my first impressions of this rod. What I have seen so far lets me know that Tam really put thought and sweat equity into this rod, and wanted it to be the best rod his personal tenkara experience and engineering brains could produce.

Coming up: Part II -- on the water fishing flies of different weight and catching trout in atypical freestone mountain stream.

By the way, a tanuki is the Japanese Raccoon Dog, which is neither a dog nor a raccoon. It is known in Japanese/Chinese folklore as a prankster, spook and shapeshifter, originally evil, but now more of a trickster.


  1. I apology for having a lose cap. All Tanuki customers will receive free replacement new cap for Tanuki 375 in late Feb, 2015. I am working on a new cap right now. It is going to be a little different and a little tighter (not too tight because I don't want to add stress on rod tube.)

    1. Thank you. That will make a great rod even better!

  2. My Tanuki 375 arrived today. The new cap is shipping now, and is perfectly sized and snug.