Saturday, 21 July 2012

Day 3 Japan Trip

I write this blog with a thumping head this morning, I decided not to attempt blog entry after much Whiskey last night.

My last view of Kobe
I was awoken by thunder storms in Kobe on day 3 but when I looked out the window it made the are I was staying in spectacular, sadly I did not get any photo's but as the clouds filtered through the green mountain side it was just like a Japanese postcard scene, very beautiful. I checked out of the ANA Crowne Plaza in Kobe and waited for Mr Kitagawa to collect me, as I was leaving Kobe and heading to Wakayama to meet with Gan Craft at their office.

Gan Craft Project car
After a short 3 hour drive we arrive in Tanabe in Wakayama where Mr Kake (Kotaro) met us at the office door, it was good to see him again, we have spent much time together during their recent trips to Australia. Before I went inside I had to take some photo's of the Gan Craft prject car that was parked in the car park. It is a Poniac Trans Am that has been wrapped with anime graphics, these graphics feature in a cartoon by Mr Kake and also a limited edition Jointed Claw. When I saw the car I just had to get a few pics as my Step Daughter Maddison is crazy for Anime. I am sure she would like me to wrap my car like this also.

local tackle store Gan Craft egi wall
We went into the office where I found Mr Nakahira and more staff from the office after a breif chat we went for lunch at a local Tonkatsu place, its pretty much a deep fried heaven, mainly tempura, but I chose a 300g chunk of panko coated piece of pork. It was amazing, this place was another shoes off affair and very traditional in its layout. It was a very enjoyable feed. From here we ventured to a local tackle store to have a look at a different area to see how the tackle varied from location to location, the wall of Gan Craft egi was massive, every color in the rainbow and then some, I had my arm twisted (yeah right) and bought myself a Stella 2500S and an Ocea Jigger NRHG2000 along with a few other bits and pieces. We had to return to the office so Mr Kitagawa and his superior could have some business meetings with Gan Craft staff. In the office at Gan Craft the main area was like a kids paradise with toys everywhere and a massive TV and lounge suit located at the end, while they were discussing business I was able to watch the latest epsode of Gans Gang ep 26. the latest installment of a TV series from Gan Craft mainly about Bass in Japan. Mr Hiraiwa and Mr Iwatchi were not at the office as they were away doing some media work for the new range of rods soon to be seen in Australia.

Chinu fre eswimming
After the meetings concluded It was decided that we head to a local drain to try and catch a Chinu, Chinu or other wise known as Kuradai are the local species of Bream, now at this point I have to say any one who believes that Japan does not have a healthy fishery is very mislead, upon arrival I could see Chinu in their hundreds free swimming in the drain, this is not a mangrove laden estuary or a structure filled system, it is a drain type of creek made of concrete, I could not believe how many fish there were, that said these fish get a lot of angling pressure so they are smarter than the average Bream back home, over and over these fish just looked at the lures and turned their heads as if to laugh at my offerings. It did not take too long before I hooked up to a cracking fish a bit over 40cm, because this was an unplanned

The Drain
trip we did not have a net and from fishing about 3 meters up a wall this was going to be a challenge, Mr Nakahira took the leader and aon a count of three lifted the Chinu up the wall. I was wrapped a stonking Chinu as my first fish in Japan, we got a few pics and a quick release before I quickly cast again, it had taken over 50 casts to hook up to the first one but the very next cast bang I was on again, this one was bigger then the last and much heavier so after a short fight Mr Nakahira again tried to lift the fish up the wall but sadly this time the jig head came out. This did not worry me too much as I had already landed one and was wrapped that I did. With Mr Kitagawa and his boss needing to return to Kobe we finished up with the fishing and returned to the office. I can not Thank Mr Kitagawa enough for his assistance while I was in Kobe, he was a brilliant host and I enjoyed my stay very much because of the help he gave me during my stay, he is a very fiend to me both here and when they visit Australia, Thanks Yuki.

The results of the drain
The Horse
Now I headed to my Hotel in Tanabe, staying at the Hanayo Garden Hotel I went for a very quick shower as he was coming back to pick me up in 20 minutes for dinner, we went into Tanabe which in comparison to Kobe was a very small village the streets were very narrow and filled with heaps of small bars and restaurants, traditional stalls cooking octopus balls were everywhere but we went to a more traditional style eating house, it was small and had very good atmosphere, I did have to use a few muscles I had not used since school by crossing my legs to fit under the low table on the bamboo floor, I am not sure of much of the food that was on the table but I very much enjoyed the JFC, beef and this might sound odd but I really enjoyed the Horse, yes the Horse. That said I would probably liked it more if it was cooked. We finished eating and went to a secret hidden whiskey bar call Gucci, looking at it from outside you would never have guessed that it was a bar, it was a tiny room that only seated 8 and it had the biggest collection of single malt Scotch, Irish and American whiskey I had every seen. Apparently this is quite common for this area and there are many bars secretly

Kotaro rocking out on the mic
hidden away in the narrow streets of this village. I had a few Whiskey's with Kotaro and Imazu ( I Think that is correct spelling, not sure but that's another story) and then I knew I was in for a hangover when they suggested we go to a Karaoke bar called Cherry Snack. This place was a lot of fun and although I did not take the microphone the atmosphere was great. The drinks just kept getting topped up as the night progressed  I noticed the door of the small karaoke bar open and in walked Mr Hiraiwa and Mr 'Make some noise' Yoshida. I had not met Mr Yoshida before but had seen him on many internet clips, he is a Bass Pro Staff for Gan Craft and an amazing angler when you watch his clips. I was very happy to see them both and it was not because I was half cut but because I have much respect for both of them and their angling talents. Mr Hiraiwa is the founder of Gan Craft and a very nice bloke.

I dont know what happened with much of the rest of the night but I am sure I enjoyed it very much.

Some random pics:
This wasp was about 2" long nasty looking critter
Bonnet Shot
Gucci entrance, no sign of a bar to be seen
Inside Gucci
This is what the Tanabe streets are like

Friday, 20 July 2012

Day 2 Japan Trip

Park next to hotel
Another full on day today, had a cracker sleep in and did not wake up till 0600 this morning, after the normal shower and get dressed routine I jumped into the lift and headed for the buffet breakfast, now for those of you who have not yet worked it out I am not too bad on the chew and I enjoy my food so I was a hungry man on a mission to destroy the buffet. Try as I may I only took 3 plates because I had a big day planned, I knew I did well though because the chef told me that they normally only cook eggs twice for breakfast but he was making number 3 just for me LOL. Pretty chockers full of food I decided I would do something I never do and that was go for a walk to have a look at the sights near the hotel, I did not travel too far away as I am sure my body would have gone into shock if I did and for those who dont know Kobe has lots of hills and is on the edge of mountain ranges.
Storm water dragons

I wont bore you with all the details but the pictures will speak louder than words, its really an amazing city. One of the details I have to explain is the amount of vending machines in this town, what ever direction you look is a machine, I was sitting in a park-playground area and decided I wanted a drink so I approached the vending machines for a coke, however, I had trouble finding a coke as the vending machines were full of beer, I had to get a photo of that, not more than 20 meters from this playground area was vending machines full of beer and smokes, in the end I found my coke in a chain store here called Lawsons. The girl at the counter was learning English and I am attempting to learn Japanese so she practiced her English and I had a dip at some Japanese, must have got my message across as I left with a coke and we both had a few chuckles.
beer machine

Maruha Tackle store
I wandered back to the hotel to meet with Mr Kitagawa so we could go and have a look at some tackle stores, I have been looking forward to tackle stores more than anything else and all I can say is OH MY GOD. Multi level tackle stores and with more subiki jigs on one wall that I have seen in Australia period. You name a lure its here, hook size? yep they have it. Surreal experience and lucky I do not travel with a credit card with big limits or I could not afford my trip home, too much to play with and it did my head in. The first shop we went to  was a chain store a bit like Tackleworld at home and when I got to the egi section it took my 20 minutes just to browse past  the literally thousand of jigs on the wall and Mr Kitagawa tells me that this particular store is not so big and the next one would be better for me, in shock all I could say was OK.  I picked up a few toys and off to the next shop. The next shop was bigger and had more variety, called Maruha it had its own floor just for lures so this was going to get
Maruha lure man
 expensive......... after a good look around I discovered some Inchiku jigs, this is what I was looking for to buy on this trip as no one in Australia stocks them, they are going to be my new snapper smasher this year, although I reckon I will be beefing up the leader because it is an expensive trip back to pick up a few jigs. I found a few more things that were pretty cool too so invested a bit more into their local economy. We were running low on time as I was dragging my feet a bit playing with all the new toys that I have never seen in Australia, I made my way to the counter and I met with the worker who was happy to see Australian Gan Craft Pro Staff in his store so it was out with the cameras for a few pictures for the store and for his blog, I thought I would get in on the action and get a pic for my blog also.

Gosen Factory
We did have plans to go to a Gyoza restaurant in Kobe but I took too long looking at all the shiney things in the store so it was off to my second preferred food store to Gyoza,  McDonalds. I tried the McTeriyaki burger, it gets a 2 thumbs up from me, and then a Big Mac meal just to see how close it tastes to home and nope no different. We did the mad dash back to Mr Kitagawa's office to pick up his boss and then off to the Gosen Factory to see how the line is made, after about 1 hour's drive we arrived at Gosen and was met by  Mr Hitoshi Kishimoto (General Manager) and Mr Toshiaki Morikata (Manager Fishing Tackle) where after introductions we went inside to meet with some more staff, we took a short drive to the braiding factory a massive factory that was braiding fine strands of dyneema to make braided line, This factory had more than 700 of these machines pumping out line all over the place,
Braiding Machines
 some 4 strand some 8 strand and some assist hook core line, was amazing to see how it all worked and also amazing to see how many quality checks are preformed before the stage of braiding and also before the line is packaged, its a credit to the company and a clear reason why Gosen pumps out some of the worlds best braided fishing lines. We then headed back to the main factory for a quick tour, however, someone does not own pants nor shoes so we had to limit part of the tour because crocs and shorts were not proper safety attire, will make sure when I come back I will bring some normal people clothes. They do everything here, strands for wigs, monofliliment, fluorocarbon and even polyester sewing thread, I saw the mono extrusion and again the quality checks were incredible, if they did this in the rest of the world then there would be no need for warranties. Next stop was the dying room, this is where 60 spools of braid are placed on a machine and left to run the lines are colored and then dried before being measured and packed for your enjoyment. Seriously guys if you are after some great quality line dont pass up on Gosen, its incredibly tight weave makes it finer than most other lines and does not unwind itself when tying knots. Gladiator tackle is the distributor for Gosen in Australia and unlike many other brands that give the impression they are made in Japan, this stuff is because, I know because I was there while it was being spun. It has been doing it for more than 60 years so I reckon they have it sussed by now. They are making a new export model for us soon, I have been using it on one of my egi outfits and am wrapped with it so keep your peepers out for it.

Don Don  Barbeque
Back to more important things like my stomach, so we all jumped in cars and headed back into Kobe for a traditional Kobe style Japanese Barbeque. I am telling you folks I am gonna make one of these things when I get home, the table would have seated 6 in comfort with a circular grill in the middle, after a few drinks and some pickled vegetables Mr Kitagawa ordered from the menu for us all, soon to arrive at the table was a plate of think sliced pork for the grill, perfection in taste and texture does not give this meal credit and just when i thought that they may have ordered a little light along comes some of Kobe's famous beef in thin slices ready for the grill, some how I managed to eat some green stuff first but the beef was incredible and I could have eaten a tray on my own so I did. Next was some what different, a tray filled with small dishes arrived with products I had not seen before, with some subtle investigation I found that it was the stuff we in Australia cut out and put in the bin, liver, stomach lining, outer stomach, tongue, esophagus and something else that made my stomach turn a little. I did attempt some liver and stomach but gave up after that and we ordered some more beef. The hospitality from the people in Japan has been second to none, Mr Kitagawa has been a perfect host and a lot of help translating Japanese to Engrish for me and getting me around as well as orginising my entire visit thus far. I can not thank him enough for the experience.
Beer, smoke and chopsticks, unseen in Australian eatery

Tomorrow is the most exciting part for me as we head to Wakayama to the Gan Craft Factory.

Here are some random pics from today:
Police Car Nissan Tida LOL no high speed chase.

Not just Police but Super Police, only in Japan

mini bike with road reg

I counted 10 people on site, one working, must have been trained by the board of works

Egi wall, there was 3 more just like it in the same store

Chain Tackle store

Gan Craft Display, Jointed Claw, Bacra and Kaiten

Grill in the table

The offel offering, Keko Des (no thank you)

Kobe side street, this place is littered with them and they all look the same

My tackle building thus far. Is it obvious I am getting into light jigging and popping

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Day 1 Japan Trip

Appologies if things dont look right on the page folks, my blog is on auto region and everything is in Japanese so I have no idea what I am clicking on.
Kansai (KIX) Airport

Been a massive day that started in a car then to a plane, then another plane, then a tram, then a bus, then a ferry and then a car.

First thing this morning at about 0300 my lovely wife Kim was kind enough to forfeit some sleep and drive me to the airport at Tullamarine in Melbourne. for a 0600 flight to the Gold Coast Airport in Queensland to meet with my connecting Kansai (Osaka Japan) airport flight, its seems I got out of Melbourne Airport in the nick of time with some sort of disruption causing cancellations and delays across the airport, this time round I opted for a business class flight as most airlines do not cater for a man of my carriage (no wise cracks please LOL), I was fortunate enough to have both seats free so I could spread myself out a bit and just enjoy some space as 9 hours would have been a killer crammed into a little middle row seat.
airport garden

I arrived in Kansai as the only person on the flight wearing shorts and crocs so a massive hit of heat as people got off the plane in 30+ temps wearing their winter woollies coming from Melbourne. I made my way through the airport up a few escalators and ended up at a tram stop, it seems you need to catch a tram thing to the main airport, I worked my way through immigration and customs and went on the hunt for the ferry that would take me from Kansai Airport to Kobe Airport, cant believe how many people spoke English as my bad Japanese was getting a few giggles before finishing conversations in English. I got my ferry ticket sorted and then had to organize a bus to get to the ferry terminal and then a 40 minute wait for the bus to the ferry. I can not speak highly enough of the folks working at the airport, as you can imagine a stranger in a strange place is daunting enough but then to not be able to speak the native tongue is a killer, the people were great and got me on my way with minimal fuss and made everything so simple.

high speed ferry
I got on my buss and then my ferry for a quick 30 minute trip across Osaka Harbour to Kobe airport ferry terminal where I met with Mr Kitagowa who was kind enough to pick me up and take me to my hotel that he had booked for me previously. I am staying at the ANA Crowne Plazza Hotel and first impressions were wow, then I got to my room and double wow, not only did I have a massive room with cracking views from the 23rd floor but they also have ashtrays inside.

Thats it for me today, I am shagged an going to bed while watching Toy Story in Japanese, its funnier than I remember it in English LOL
hotel room
view over Kobe to Osaka from hotel room

Kobe Station

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Kuma Colors

Last year during a visits from the folks at Gan Craft Japan some discussions were had about some exclusive limited edition colors in both the egi-jya and uo-jya color range, after some very close consultation some cracking colors will be released in the next month available in Australian stores only. Cant wait to see them on the shelf and congrats to the Japan team for bringing it all together and making the lures as close as humanly possible to what we thought best suited Australian anglers and waters
For those curious as to why we picked these particular colors we will start from the top:

Although the Kuma Killer looks all things black it starts with the foil below the cloth, introducing more red foils into the mix it started with this one, red is best for refracting light at night and in low light so red foil for starters, then as we all know black casts a better silhouette  at night so a black cloth was added to enhance the silhouette, with all bases covered we also considered the contrasting colors and with all black cloth the white eyes and white shrimp pattern along with white feather brought this color out and added some contrast.

The Kuma zero color is one that is close to my heart as I m a big fan of natural colors, I love gold foils as I mostly fish early mornings and late afternoons when the gold foil is best used. By adding browns and blacks  the replication of many Australian bait species was an important choice. We all know how well brown on gold worked in the past before it became harder to find.

Like the Kuma zero the Kuma MG was built with local species in mind and again the red foil, great in low light and a favourite to many egingu anglers Australia wide, bringing the plum through to dark red through to black across the back replicates a lot of species that squid choose to eat including small snapper and red mullet.

The UO-JYa colors were very specific to our local species starting with the top of the list and can any body say grass whiting, slimy mackerel, or yakka. Keeping it real was the motif behind this and the second on the list, although we wanted to add some red to the color instead of green because we all know how much Australian squid like reds. which brings me to my fave of the UO-JYA's the full red color of the drunken red stop color from the original range has always been a very popular color in Australia, that said we wanted one that would have a contrast in color and cause feeding aggression in the squid strike, we think this sums it up just nice and when all is said and done it looks way cool aswell.