Nationally qualified “Edo Wazao” is collective name for one of the traditional bamboo fishing rods, Tokyo, Japan. It gained popularity especially in the capital city in the late Edo Era (1750’s), and it lasted until the early Showa period after WW2, when the carbon rods took their place in the fishing gear markets (around 60’s). One of the characteristics which distinguish the “Edo Wazao” from other Japanese bamboo fishing rod was the wide varieties which employ to the different species. Compared to the “Shonai Wazao” (Yamagata prefecture) which focuses mainly rocky shore fishing or “Kishu Wazao” (Wakayama Prefecture) which focuses certain crucian carp fishing, the collective name “Edo Wazao” contains several different rod types depending on which fishes to aim and where to fish.
“Edo Wazao” has two structural types. One of which is a single piece of bamboo. It was called nobezao（延べ竿）in Japanese. The other one is constructed by jointing the several bamboo staves, and called tsugizao (継竿) in Japanese. The numbers of bamboo staves in tsugizao are 3-20.
A single piece of bamboo, Nobezao, was common all over the Japanese archipelagoes, however, there were the high demands to fishing various fish species (a sweetfish, a goby, crucian carp, a parrot fish etc) around the Tokyo bay with small, convenient fishing rod to carry. These demands consequently led the development of tsugizao type “Edo Wazao”. The Tsugizao type “Edo Wazao” have gained popularity little by little among Edo fishing fanatics. Not only it was very convenience to carry, and also it was wonderfully beautiful craft. It is known that the nobles, such as Prime minister of Japan in early Meiji Period, Kuroda Kiyotaka also adored the beauty of tsugizao type “Edo Wazao”.
2 types of Wazao
It is known that one of the ateliers named “Taichiya-tosaku” (established in Tenmei Era) have hugely contributed the development of Tsugizao type “Edo Wazao”. The Originator of atelier, Tosaku Matsumoto opened it right after he married with a daughter of commercial lumber dealer, and after dropping off samurai work in Edo castle. In fact, Tosaku Matsumoto wasn’t a first person to make Tsugizao type “Edo Wazao”.
There are same types in Kyoto already and Edo as well. But the superior fishing rods he created were beloved not only by townsman but also last shogun, Yoshinobu Tokugawa. In addition, many of his disciples and disciples related branched and supported the wide spread popularity of Tsugizao type “Edo Wazao”.
After the twists and turns in the fishing rods market, now, 5th generation of Tosaku Matsumoto (numbering 6th person after 1st) still works in Tokyo. Saburo Matusmoto keep atelier “Taichiya-tosaku” in much smaller scale under golden age of carbon rods market. After Transition to the carbon rods took their place in the market (around 1960’s), there are less and less “Edo Wazao” atelier and craftsmen. Now, they have cooperative to keep their traditional techniques going in eastern side of Tokyo, downtown.
The Collecting bamboo stems for finest fishing rods require many disciplines. Because there are many kinds and different characteristics of bamboos, and only the appropriate combination of bamboos becomes the finest fishing rod, the craftsmen need to know much of them. For example, Hotei bamboo shoot, named after Seven Lucky Gods of Japanese mythology and folklore is only good for sea fishing rod because of its strength and thickness, but not suitable for freshwater because of its heaviness and concentrated staves on the bottom. Third year of arrow bamboos are more suitable for sweetfish, goby, and other freshwater fish rather than other years of same bamboos because the first and second year of arrow bamboo stems have not enough hardness to endurance, and also 4th year of arrow bamboo stems become too hard, so it has much fragility than 3rd years of same kind. After the bamboo shoots have been selected, they are cut down and dried more than a month.
How to make
There are several steps for crafting tsugizao type “Edo Wazao”. Tosaku Matsumoto (6th) has said in the records that the craftsmen somehow become capable of imaging what they are going to craft after practice and long experience. They change the measurement of each fragmented rod, tools for craft and thickness, hardness of bamboo depending upon the images that came up, and the mostly, customer’s requirement. The methods are followed.
“Kirikumi” is the first process named for cutting bamboo shoots for approximate length of each fragment. This is done by old Japanese system of weights and measures.
“Tameshita” is the second process named for preparation that straightens the bamboo. It contains removal of leaf buds, bamboo shoot skin, making small holes inside the bamboo staves.
In “Tame”, the fragmented bamboos are heated on charcoal stove. Because the bamboos are thermosetting property, the craftsmen heated bamboos for appropriate moment, try not to be scorched.
“Makishita” is the process named for clearing inside of the bamboo staves with several iron tools.
In “Makishita”, the twisted strings are winded to the edge of fragmented fishing rod where each fragments joint for strength.
“Tugishita” is the process named for the joint adjustment of each fragments. There are two ways to joint each fragment. One of which is putting each side by side. The other way having core wood, and inserting two fragments from each side.
In the last process, “Nuri”. The craftsmen painted Japanese lacquer several times, and it takes about 3 month to finish. There are some reasons that “Wazao” craftsmen paint lacquer by hands, and it’s only them to do so.
After these steps, finally there will be the beautiful craft of tsugizao type “Edo Wazao” in the sale.
松本栄一 (1966)『和竿事典』 つり人社。東京。
松本三郎 (2006) 『江戸和竿職人 歴史と技を語る』。（聞き手）かくまつとむ。平凡社。東京。