June 11, 2020

Shimano Keihō Tenkara 36NR rod review

I received a new rod a few weeks ago. It is the Shimano Keihō Tenkara NR 36 and it was one of the recently released tenkara rods that I have been curious about. 

I've fished with quite a few Shimano tenkara rods since 2012. I currently have a Shimano Mainstream ZE 40-45 zoom rod, and I have had a Shimano LLS36NX, both of which I really liked (I shouldn't have sold the LLS36NX). They represent "more stiff" or "faster" Shimano rods than what has been released from Shimano the last few years. I've also fished with the Shimano Keiryu Tenkara ZL, Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP, Shimano Maystone, and Shimano Pack Tenkara ZW tenkara rods. While these are very nice rods, they didn't "spark joy" for me and my casing style. I didn't keep any of these. 

So when the Shimano Keihō Tenkara NR 36 was introduced, I was really interested to see how it would be. Here's is a Google translation of what Shimano has on their website: "It is an aggressive tone model that pursues a sharp feel. The 8:2 tone is different from the torso-like "pack tenkara", "mountain stream tenkara", and "main stream tenkara". The spiral X structure suppresses blurring and twisting during swing, allowing you to experience a precise cast and a direct feeling of hanging. The grip uses an EVA with moderate cushioning and a warm cork hybrid type created by natural materials. It reduces the strain on the body during tenkara fishing, where casting is repeated over a long period of time. 

Just by bending the tip of the rod with the snap of the wrist, the
burr will fly comfortably.

Nao Ishigaki
Hisao Ishigaki"

The 36 NR comes in a plastic carton, like many Japanese tenkara rods. It also comes with a rod sleeve. The rod is very handsome with deep maroon or burgandy coloration on the blank above the handle. The rod designation is sharp and crisp in both Japanese and English, while on the back it says the rod is "Made in China". The rest of the sections are glossy black without any decoration. 

The handle has the classic Japanese hyoutan gourd shape with the majority of the handle (22 cm) being in high density black foam. Near the upper portion of the handle is a metal ring that is anodized black and has TENKARA written on it. There is then a 5 cm length of cork on the upper handle. Why the metal ring and the cork? I don't know, except is does give a striking look. If they are for aesthetics, it works!

The tip plug is wood with rubber insert. It fits tightly into the handle segment. The butt cap is metal with a brushed nickle finish. It has a small air decompression hole and a coin slot. There is no knurling. It can't be effectively removed without using a coin, or some other strong, thin object. 

The lilian is dark brown. It is attached to the tip section with a perfectly executed glue joint. The tip section can be completely removed through the second section for complete rod disassembly. 

Here are some of my measurements:

Collapsed: 51 cm (20 in).
Fully extended: 361 cm (11.8 ft). 
Weight (without tip plug): 82.3 g (2.9 oz).
CCS: 19.5 pennies
RFI: 5.4

RFI Comparison sheet. To make largerClick HERE

The rod casts very differently from other recently release Shimano rods. Like those other rods, the 36 NR has a hollow tip section. This makes it stiffer than rods that have a solid tip section. The bend or flex profile for this rod is definitely not full flex! It is more nearly a 7:3 or maybe 8:2. It takes a quicker, shorter casting stroke than with the Tenkara ZL or Pack Tenkara. Those rods are very whippy compared to the 36 NR. I can't speak for the "full flex" tenkara crowd, but this rod may not be what they think is a proper "Tenkara" rod! But as stiff as it is, I think Dr. Ishigaki knows what he's doing and that all tenkara rods don't have to be a 5:5 profile or full flex. 

As for me, I like it! The RFI is deceptively low for how it feels. To me it casts similar to my Nissin Air Stage Fujiryu 6:4 360, but the AS360 6:4 360 has an RFI of 5.9. The Shimano flexes more in the number 2-4 segments (tip segment is number 1) than the Nissin, and I suspect this is why the Shimano has an RFI of 5.4. 

Rod balance is excellent. There is no end of cast "cast killing oscillation". Multiple hand hold positions on the handle make the rod a pleasure to fish. 

I fished the rod on a typical mountain stream (for me at least) with encroaching riparian vegetation and moderate flow gradient. I used a #3 line (which is what I use in a breeze/wind) about equal to the rods length. Tippet was 2.5-3 feet of 5.5X. Casts were quick and sharp. Hitting targets was easy, even under the redtwig dogwood branches that hug the water line. Hook sets were lightning quick and decisive. Fish control was excellent. Casting loops were tight, although it took me a little while to get used to the rod and stop overpowering the casts. 

I used unweghted kebari, size #10, which is typical for me, but I bet this rod would be great for tactical nymphing with beadhead nymphs! 

Here's a video of me using the rod:

Conclusion: I like this rod. It's short enough when collapsed to be very portable and it has a very functional extended length. It has plenty of power, but it also can finesse a fly into tight spots. I love the quick hooksets and fish fighting control as well. 

I guess I'm somewhat of a rod snob, in that I am a little disappointed that it's "made in China" instead of Japan, but I'm just going to have to get over that. There's a lot a great rods coming out of China now, and if Shimano and Dr. Ishigaki think being made in China it's good enough for them, then who am I to say it's not. 

Will this rod replace or supplant my favorite tenkara rods? No, I don't think so. But I can see me using it pretty frequently. And unlike other Shimano rods (Tenkara ZL, Honryu 44, and Pack Tenkara), I won't be selling this rod right off the bat! 

Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ.  Also, your rod may not have the same length, issues, or functionality as my rod. There are variations between rods, even in the same production run. No description can fully tell you how a rod feels or fishes. For this, you must personally hold, cast, and fish the rod then make up your own mind. Don't just take my word for it.
I have no financial affiliation with Shimano Tenkara. I purchased this rod at retail price. 


  1. Thanks for this review! This rod sounds ideal for my particular tenkara preferences! It has my interest!

  2. Thanks Tom. I don’t have a shimano rod, but I too have a slight aversion to the “made in…” label, although I have two Daiwa rods that I like a lot (and now the two Dragontail rods). It’s a very handsome rod for sure and similar to what you said, I trust Dr Ishigaki knows what he’s doing.

  3. "Can't do made in China "for tenkara rod .