The air raids on Tokyo, which are said to have killed more than 80,000 people, were too great a tragedy for a youth of thirteen years. He was made a war orphan in one night, while his younger sister had been evacuated earlier. After the war, the two siblings were saved by Kinba Sanyutei, a master of traditional Japanese rakugo comic storytelling who had been one of their father’s customers.


Not only did he take care of their everyday needs, but as an avid fisherman he did not want to see the long-established business disappear, and he led Mr. Nakane on the path toward becoming a fishing-rod craftsperson. Since the first generation, when its holder was numbered among the three masters of the Meiji Period, the title Saochu has been known for outstanding lacquer work and patronized by writers, artists, and entertainers. Thanks to Master Kinba, Mr. Nakane was reunited with famous customers including authors, sculptors, and kabuki actors, and this inspired him to resolve to take on the challenge of the family trade. He was apprenticed to an affiliated bamboo fishing-rod craftsperson at the age of nineteen, and after five years’ training he ventured into the business on his own under the name Takenoko. Seeking to attain a level of skills worthy of the name Saochu, he continued to collect the rods made by his ancestors, learning from those works the techniques that had been passed along through the generations. It was not until he was forty-three years old that he felt confident enough to succeed to the professional name Saochu.


Even now he handles all tasks from purchasing bamboo materials through the 120 processes of crafting a bamboo fishing rod entirely by himself. Each rod, painstakingly decorated with ivory and tortoiseshell and exhibiting skilled lacquer work, is a true work of art. Through his efforts to have bamboo fishing rods designated a traditional craft by the Japanese government and serving as chair of the Edo Wazao Association, he has contributed to the spread of the craft’s popularity. Edo wazao bamboo fishing rods are an art form born in the world of the Edo Period that truly can be enjoyed in a time of peace. Wazao works convey the essence of craftsmanship and precious cultural traditions into the future.


Kisaburo Nakane

Born in 1931 in Tokyo. Awarded the Medal of Honor with a Yellow Ribbon in 1996. Named an honorary citizen of Tokyo in 2015. Long unable to tell even his daughters about his experiences during the Tokyo air raids of World War II, he finally was able to talk about the tragedy of war thanks to the support provided by his younger sister Kayoko Ebina’s (wife of Hayashiya Sanpei I) activities to communicate people’s wartime experiences.

Translation: Media Research, Inc.

Spirit and Spine

created by

project direction
Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
site design
title calligraphy
Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)