I recently received a package from Japan that contained a new rod. What intrigued me about this rod was the advertisement of its weight and overall action. As a side note, I was absolutely shocked when I receive the rod, as I had only ordered it the day before! This was the first time I had ordered a tenkara item from Japan and it show up the very next day! The shipping cost wasn't prohibitive either.
Anyway, the rod is the new Kiwami Tenkara 3.8 m from River Peak. A few of the design goals for this rod was to make a rod that is lightweight and has a similar action to that of a bamboo tenkara rod. Here is what they say on their webpage: "This rod is the result of a long time trial and error process to make it as light as possible while reproducing a bamboo rod action. The rod is made in Japan from the design to the manufacturing process, combining traditional and cutting-edge techniques to create one of the lightest rods of its size in the world. The body of the rod is screwed with carbon thread to create bellows shape, which minimizes rod body shake and allows anglers to cast level lines to accurately bring the fly. We repeatedly tested by fishing Japanese Trout, Yamame and Iwana to confirm the casting ability and the resistance to miss the fish. In addition, we have been able to realize that the lightness and lack of shaking of the rod reduces fatigue after long hours of fishing for a whole day. Slender and ultra-light weight to reduce air resistance, enabling anglers to enjoy stress-free Tenkara fishing with light rod action." (reference). Given these statements, I wanted to test the rod and do some measurements.
The rod came from Japan via FedEx. It arrived in a square shipping box that was in good order. Upon opening the box, I found that the rod does not come in a plastic carton, as many Japanese tenkara rods do. The rod was in a nice rod sleeve and wrapped in bubble wrap. Also in the box was a product catalog, some stickers and an origami "thank you" note.
The rod is black in coloration and glossy in finish. The rod designation is well done with the company name in English and the rod name in Japanese kanji letter characters. As far as decoration or accents, there are only a small white ring and a subtle purple ring painted near the handle. That's it!
The rod blanks are unsanded and each segment, other than the tip segment, has a prominent spiral pattern. This spiral pattern is created as the carbon fiber sheet is rolled onto the mandrel. It imparts a unique look to the rod and is unlike most tenkara rods, where the blanks are sanded smooth.
The handle is very good quality cork and has a small cork composite ring on each end. The length of the handle is 23 cm, with the shape being cylindrical, not gourd or camel shaped. The diameter of the handle is 22 mm. The handle is a little too small for my XL size hands, but given that the rod is produced for the Japanese domestic market (JDM), the small diameter handle makes perfect sense. Besides, the handle diameter is similar to many keiryu and seiryu rods I have owned, so it's not that big of a deal.
The tip plug is wood and fits snugly in the tip of the handle segment. The butt cap is round and is also made of wood (with plastic threads and a rubber bumper). When it is in position, it sits quite proud of the handle butt. It's a distinctive, but not unpleasant, look.
The lillian is red and is glued directly onto the tip segment with a perfectly executed glued joint. The tip segment can slide through the second segment, allowing the rod to be fully disassembled for cleaning and drying. The lillian is only 2.5 cm in length, so if you are a "knot in the lillian" person, you'll have to be very careful tying it.
Here are my measurements:
Fully extended: 378 cm
Nested (with tip plug): 59.5 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 65 g
CCS: 14 pennies
Rotational Moment: 6.2
Casting the Kiwami Tenkara 3.8 is enjoyable. The rod is advertised as a 6:4 flex profile, but it is clearly a 5:5. The rod flexes into the handle when casting a 400 cm #3 fluorocarbon level line. End of cast dampening is excellent and I don't detect any tip or rotational oscillation. The action is rich and full flex.
The rod is, as advertised, very lightweight. It's balance is very good and as predicted by its rotational moment measurement, there is no significant tip heaviness.
One of the claims by River Peak is that the Kiwami Tenkara 3.8 reproduces the feel of a bamboo tenkara rod. Unfortunately, I have not cast a bamboo tenkara rod so I can't comment on this claim. I have cast western bamboo fly rods, and they are generally full flex and slower in action, and if a bamboo tenkara rod is similar, then I think River Peak has met their goal.
As far as a maximum tippet strength recommendation for the River Peak Kiwami Tenkara 3.8, there is no formal recommendation. But Ichi Katsumoto, the River Peak representative I communicated with, states that with proper fish fighting techniques, a reasonable tippet strength can be used. So, if you are worried about breaking the rod on a big fish, then use 6X. If you are good in fighting large fish you could probably get away with 4X. Use your best judgement for your local waters, fish size and species, and your "real life" skills.
One last thing. My experience communicating with the company, River Peak, was flawless. My emails were answered quickly and courteously by Ichi, and for what it's worth, his English is excellent. If you have questions regarding this rod, or any of River Peak's other offerings, don't hesitate contacting them. Their email for inquiries is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conclusion: I like this rod. I think that River Peak has made a very nice tenkara rod that fulfills its goals perfectly. It is an excellent rod for Japanese-style tenkara. It casts really well, is very lightweight, has a pleasant full flex action profile, and is reasonably priced (¥21,780 or $198 USD at the time of this writing). I also like the 380 cm length. It's the perfect length for streams where you need just a little more reach but don't need a 390-400 cm rod. I'd like to see more 380 cm rods.
So, if you are in the market for a very well built JDM full flex tenkara rod, then consider the River Peak Kiwami Tenkara 3.8. I don't think you'll be disappointed!
Here is a promotional video provided by River Peak: