1 Week in Japan with Gamakatsu

Fishing Gear Videos
Join us on an unforgettable journey to the heart of Japan with Gamakatsu! In this exclusive adventure, we travel with Glenn May to explore the legendary Gamakatsu headquarters, meet the CEO, and dive deep into the fascinating world of one of the largest fishing tackle shows on the planet.

Hey, guys. We're about to do a video unlike one you've ever seen before. You see, I'm here at the airport. I'm with my friend, Ted Thibault, from Gamakatsu, and we're going to Japan to visit the Gamakatsu headquarters, meet the CEO of Gamakatsu. And we're gonna go to one of the largest fishing tackle shows in the world. Gonna see all kinds of stuff that you'd never even see in America, and I'm gonna show it to you guys. Plus, we're gonna do some sightseeing, go check out Osaka and all the stuff it has to offer, and maybe even go to ride on a bullet train. Let's see what happens. So, take you along for the ride. Let's go.

After about 14 hours of flying, we finally arrived at our destination. We met up with the Gamakatsu East team and had just enough time to grab a bite to eat and get some sleep because we had a long day ahead of us. Our first visit was with the president of Gamakatsu, Mr. Fuji. In fact, he and his family invited us to his house for lunch. What an incredible honor that was. However, they treated us like it was their honor to host us.

Now, out of respect for Mr. Fuji's family, I only took one photo of the inside of his home just before we sat down for lunch, but afterwards, he took us out for a tour of his gardens. Every single rock, every bush, every tree has a meaning and a story. There's a purpose to everything in this garden. It's really interesting to learn about it. And some of the trees and bushes are actually trimmed to look the same from every angle. So talk about detail.

Now, during this time, Mr. Fuji and his wife talked a little bit about Gamakatsu. Now, you may not know this, but Gamakatsu is a family-owned business. It was started by Mr. Fuji's father and mother. His father was a fisherman and wanted to make a better fishing hook. So in about 1955, he started creating the hooks by hand by bending a wire using a small table at his home, and his wife did it too. And then he went to over 100 tackle shops to sell the hooks.

His first week had zero sales to show because, well, the shops only wanted to deal with distributors and wholesalers, not independent individuals. But that didn't sway him at all. He went directly to the fishermen instead and the media and he gave out samples with a note saying, "Hey, if you like this, tell your friends and we'll send them samples too." Well, soon the anglers were demanding the tackle stores carry the hooks, and not too long after that, the stores came knocking on his door.

Well, now the tables are turned, right? But the thing is he had actually now created his own, you know, basically, union of other tackle manufacturers for their own wholesaler group and now they had to deal with him directly. I mean, he had completely broken the mold of using wholesalers. So, pretty wild.

Anyway, after the visit, we did some sightseeing and had a wonderful dinner, but more on that later. I want to talk a little bit about the next day. We actually visited Gamakatsu's international headquarters for their annual meeting with Mr. Fuji and top executives and media from North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as representatives from their plants in China, Singapore, Japan, and Taiwan. And Gamakatsu, what I learned about this is Gamakatsu has dorms where new employees live as they learn about the business. And as part of a lifestyle living in the dorms, the co-workers, they go out fishing together every weekend.

So you start from the bottom so you know the whole process and work your way up. And their business is the heart and soul, and they take great pride in everything they do. They pour their life into it. Now, Mr. Fuji credits Gamakatsu's steady growth from collecting and implementing the ideas from their team of employees. So, of course, this is, you know, that makes sense. This is truly a fishing company driven by fishermen.

Now, after the meeting, I again, had the honor of talking with Mr. Fuji and I caught him wearing this Bassresource hat that I gave him earlier. And then he introduced us to his impressive collection of Izaak Walton's, "A Compleat Angler," which is a classic and historic book that was first published in 1653. I mean, this is the book about fishing, like the first book ever, and he has nearly every volume that was printed. And he generously offered to let me hold an original copy of the very first edition.

As you can tell by my expression, I was a bit nervous and I was literally holding it with kit gloves. I mean, I have no idea how much this irreplaceable treasure cost. But it was an honor to hold it up to be sure.

Now, after this, we go to the tackle store. So we went to this one, and, holy moly, what an amazing experience. The displays, they go all the way up to the ceiling. I mean, they're out of reach. I mean, floor to ceiling, no one's tall enough to even reach the stuff at the top. But it's incredible. I mean, just look at all this stuff. Each aisle is like a deep trench between walls of gear. It is sensory overload of the coolest kind. Everywhere you look, there's fishing tackle. It's crazy. Rows and rows and tackle, most of which you just won't find in America. I mean, take a look at all this.




What was interesting to witness were the Gamakatsu employees that were with us, they were loading up their shopping baskets. I mean, they are avid anglers first and employees a distant second. So this gives Gamakatsu an advantage not found in most fishing brands of this size.

Now, the next day was the big Osaka Fishing Show which makes the classic expo look like a yard sale. I mean, this is where fishing manufacturers debut their latest products to the fishing industry. And it's huge, it covers four or five buildings. I mean, lot of square footage, tons of vendors there. The first day is just for businesses and the next two days is open to the public. And this is a big deal. They open the show with speeches from politicians and dignitaries from all around Japan and ending with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Obviously, they take their fishing very seriously in Japan. Now, I've long been a Gamakatsu hook fan. And in the United States, Gamakatsu is primarily known as a hook company, but in Japan, well, they sell rain gear, boots, tackle boxes, and all kinds of terminal tackle. The Gamakatsu booth was absolutely massive and impressive. Packed full of rods, hooks, terminal tackle, clothing, gear, and more, including crankbaits and squid jigs.

I mean, to illustrate this point, Gamakatsu's Japanese catalog is over 400 pages. Fishing is a huge part of the Japanese lifestyle. Freshwater bass fishing is extremely popular, and there's a lot of saltwater fishing from the rocks too. And Gamakatsu is like the premier brand in Japan. 


One of the things that was really interesting, I was blown away by these telescoping rods that...they have intricate fiber blends and details throughout the rods.

These rods can be up to 30 feet long. Yeah, they telescope, they're made of high-end carbon fiber. You'd think these were really heavy, but the ones that I actually tried were feather-light. Now, they don't have any reel. It's just a leader at the end connected by a microscopic swivel tip and the leader is the same length as the rod itself. Some of the rods are valued for thousands and thousands of dollars, U.S. dollars. They're extremely expensive.

Now, how they use them is a fish for a...there's a fish called an ayu. Ayu fishermen fish with tiny two-hook rigs consisting of hand-tight trebles. And to catch a live ayu, you must buy a live ayu, a smaller one, and you hook it to the hook. And Ayu's are a real aggressive territorial fish. And what you do is you dip your live ayu into a little area on the river or stream, and if there's a larger one around, he'll come out and attack it, giving the angler a chance to snag them on the trebles.

I mean, it's kind of an interesting way of fishing. It only lasts about two months of the year, so it's not like a year-round thing. So this is definitely a rich man's sport with the cost of the rods and whatnot. But I guess the fish are really, really good, quite a delicacy.

Now, bass fishing is very popular in Japan, and most fish from the bank or from a small boat. They fish shoulder to shoulder on the bank, and trust me, they're all good. So a lot of the techniques that are staples in the U.S. originated in Japan from these high-pressure conditions. Rigs such as drop shots, split shots, wacky rig, Neko rigging, and the Jika rig, all of these came from Japan. So it's no surprise, you'll see a lot of baits and rigs at this show that aren't available in the U.S. Just take a look at them all.




Like I said, this show was huge, and there was so much to see. But one of the things I found interesting was the art of gyotaku. It's the traditional Japanese method of printing fish. Now, I'll explain this. This is a practice that dates back to the mid-1800s. This form of, what they call nature printing, was used by fishermen in the 1800s to record their catches. But now it's become more of an art form. The fish is cleaned, prepped, and then inked or painted, as you can see here, and then they take a dampened rice paper and apply it to the fish. And the image is created by careful hand-rubbing and pressing.

As you can see, they're handing down this art form to the next generation of anglers, which is pretty cool. And the final product is suitable for framing and is often displayed inside homes. 

Each night, we experienced amazing Japanese cuisine. Now, Japan is known for its amazing food, and I was not disappointed.

Now, to set the record straight, Japanese food isn't all about sushi and weird food. To be sure, I encountered some foods that I didn't care for such as grilled eel. And I'm really not a big sushi fan. But sometimes it was difficult to know what was on your plate and you just had to taste it. For example, if anybody can name all the items here on this dish here, please leave a comment.

None of us actually knew all of it. So you just had to taste it, and actually, some of it was pretty good. Some of it I didn't care for, but honestly, I didn't know what it was anyway. While there was indeed plenty of sushi available wherever we went, we ate a lot of beef. We had every type and style of beef you can get, plus, a whole lot of pork.

In fact, some of the best food in the world is in Japan, and they just didn't disappoint. In many restaurants, which is kind of cool, diners set in private rooms with multiple staff members doting on the guests. You felt really, like, high-end level service here. I mean, the service was absolutely impeccable everywhere we went, just amazing, stuff you don't see in the U.S.

And I had, arguably, the best Wagyu steak I have ever had in my life. It was at a fine wine and steakhouse called The Oxon in Osaka. We had several flights of Wagyu steak. Different cuts and types of just pure Wagyu beef prepped right there in front of us. The steak was so tender, you could literally cut it with a fork. It just melted in your mouth. It was absolutely amazing It's an experience I will never ever forget. And because of the cost of it here in the States, I'll probably never have it again.

We also went to a restaurant where we caught our dinner. I'm not kidding, you were handed a rod with a bait and a hook and had to catch a snapper. Now, it worked because here's mine, I caught one. And what you do is you give it to them and they prepare it any way you want. Ten minutes after you catch the fish, there it is on your table. I mean, talk about fresh, right? It was excellent. It was really, really good.

Every night for me, the best part was the sake. I love sake, which I think shocked my hosts. Japan is very well known for its outstanding beer, so most Americans go straight to that. But I wanted true, authentic sake that you just couldn't find statewide, and I was not disappointed. I had some of the best ever that I've ever had. Trying to figure out now how I can get some imported over. Now, I mean, if you're a big beer fan, you would probably feel the exact same way the beer over there. It's just amazing.

Now, in between all this stuff I just mentioned, we managed to fit in some sightseeing too, one of which was the Himeji Castle, which was built during the 17th century and has remained intact virtually in its original form for over 700 years. It's actually designated as a World Heritage Site, and the Japanese have taken meticulous care of it.

All of it was hand-built across several centuries. Everything is original and accessible. I mean, there are no ropes. There's no plexiglass to keep you from touching things. The grounds, the floor, the walls, everything, almost all of it is original. And you can actually touch it. You can see chisel marks in the wood from the craftsmen who built it. I mean. And, you know, you had to climb up this thing, get all the way up as high as we could, but you can see it has a commanding view of the castle grounds and the surrounding city. I mean, absolutely stunning.

The Byodoin Phoenix Hall is a Buddhist temple built over 1300 years ago. It's a Japanese natural treasure. There's a huge Buddha statue inside. I mean, it's...I forget it, how tall it is. I think it's 50 or 60 feet tall. It's completely original. And the murals and the art on the wall are original too. Although they're very faded and some of it's very difficult to see, it was incredible, though, to be right there right inside next to these artifacts that were centuries-old.

Unfortunately, they didn't allow photography inside, so you're just going to take my word for it. Sorry about that, guys. But it was really an incredible experience.

Now, the pond surrounding the temple, that's original too. That's, again, 1300 years old. It's kind of amazing that it's been there for that long. I looked, but, however, there weren't any bass in it. So I'm sorry about that, and I think they probably wouldn't like it if I started fishing their pond. But it's beautiful. It's absolutely beautiful.

Now, we also visited the Rokuon-ji temple. This is known as the Golden Pavilion, and it's in Kyoto. It was built in 1397. It was owned by a shogun and transferred into a temple after he died according to his wishes. And, you know, that looks like gold. Well, that's because it is. That is real gold leaf on the building, guys. The top two floors inside are also completely covered in gold leaf. Now, of course, they don't let you go inside. It's off-limits. But here's a photo of it from their official website, just to give an idea of what that looks like. It's absolutely incredible.

Now, in between visiting these historic landmarks, we also got to see the countryside of Japan. It's absolutely breathtaking. Plus, it's really interesting to see both old and new buildings scattered amongst the rice fields. It's an interesting blend between the past and future and it's a stark contrast from the city of Osaka, which is the 10th-most populated metropolitan area on the planet. More than 20 million people live there.

To give that number a little bit of perspective, New York City and Newark have a combined population of just over 18 million, and Osaka is bigger than that. Now, at the heart of Osaka is the Dotonbori area, which is similar to Times Square. It's a vibrant, exciting place to visit. There's tons of people there, but it's a party-like atmosphere. People are laughing. They're smiling. They're enjoying great food. You can smell the food in the area. Lots of culture. I mean, just check this out.




Osaka is a magnificent city. It is spotlessly clean despite all the people that are there. I never once saw a piece of trash on the ground, and only one time did I see a little bit of graffiti. It's completely safe at all hours of the day and night. There's no crime. A lot of people just...they ride their bikes to get around and they don't lock them up. They just set them aside knowing that they're gonna be there when they return. I mean, people hold the tables at restaurants.

They'll put their cell phone down, their purse, their wallet, whatever, walk away and get their order and come back knowing that it's still gonna be there when they come back. I mean, unbelievable. And that's because Japanese culture is about doing more for others than for yourself. Every stranger I encountered was friendly and helpful. It wasn't faked or contrived either. I mean, I never saw anyone arguing or yelling at each other, and only once did I hear a horn honk the entire week I was there. Once. I mean, go to New York, and it's this noise, lots of honking, right? Not in Osaka.

Patience and politeness rules there, and it just works because everybody is watching out for each other. Osaka is very densely populated with most people living in high-rises. Everything is smaller in Japan and to scale. The cars, they look like full-size cars, but that's because everything else is small relative to the cars. They're really small. I didn't see one pickup truck, and for a good reason. The side streets are very narrow.

While this street has a designated area for pedestrians, many streets are too narrow for that. So people just walk in the street. For example, here. Yeah, this is actually a street. And you can see, there's a car right there. And the cars just slowly make their way through the crowd. It's just like driving down the middle of a busy mall during Christmas. I mean... But again, nobody honks. They just wait for the crowd to part. So you have to pay attention. You're walking down the street, you got to keep looking at your back to see if any cars are coming up on you.

And it just works. There's nobody that's, you know, trying to rush through or being mean, or rude, or anything. There's a lot Americans can learn from Japanese culture. What's really interesting to observe is that a little patience and politeness goes a long way when everyone practices it. I am profoundly changed by this and have vowed to be a better person because of it.

I was honored to be invited by Gamakatsu and our friends at SPRO. While I know the trip was for their own business meetings and for the fishing show, they treated me as an honored guest for the entire trip. Like this was all about me, that's how they acted. But I feel really the honor was more mine.

What a week this has been. I am deeply grateful for the hospitality and experiences that Gamakatsu provided. They were so generous showing me around Japan and giving me a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Gamakatsu, a brand that I admired for decades. This was definitely a bucket list item, and the memories will, no doubt, last me a lifetime.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Gamakatsu!