Nissin Zerosum tenkara rods are not only designed for the Japanese domestic market, they are actually made in Japan. Their top of the line tenkara rod, the Zerosum, is a premium rod that will hold it's own against the rods of Tenryu, Suntech and the much better known Daiwa and Shimamo rods.
Unlike the Tenryu, Shimano or Daiwa rods, though, the Nissin Zerosum gives you a choice of two bend profiles. For spinning or casting rods, the profiles might be called fast and medium, but for the Nissin tenkara rods they are called 7:3 and 6:4. The numbers are a rough (and I must emphasize the word rough) indication of the percentage of the rod that is relatively firm and the percentage that is relatively soft.
The 7:3 rod is more tip flex and the 6:4 rod is more mid flex. The 7:3 rod is also stiffer than the 6:4, but it is important to understand that system does not refer to a rod's stiffness, and the 6:4 rods of some companies are stiffer than the 7:3 rods of other companies. There is no standard and no consistency from one manufacturer to the next. Even within one manufacturer, there is little consistency from one rod model to the next. Within one rod model, the Zerosum, for example, the system lets you compare those two rods. Beyond that, the system is more misleading than helpful. Do not judge Nissin harshly for using the system, though, as it is indeed useful when comparing different rods within one rod model.
In addition to the two bend profiles, the Nissin tenkara rods come in different lengths. The Zerosum comes in four lengths: 320cm, 360cm, 400cm and 450 cm. In units more familiar to American anglers, the rod lengths are: 10'6", 11'11", 13'5" and 15'0". Although the 360cm length is the de facto standard length for Japanese tenkara rods, it is better to choose a rod length based on the width of the streams you fish - shorter rods for narrower, brushier streams or those with low overhead tree branches, and longer rods for wider streams and rivers.
The Zerosum tenkara rods are fancy, with bright red highlights at the section ends, cursive writing for the rod logo (with a stylized brushstroke Z) and a gold colored tip plug.
The rod is not just fancy cosmetics, though, the multidirectional carbon weave, which is visible though the clearcoat finish just above the cork grip, does indeed stiffen the grip section of the rod. The difference is noticeable between the Zerosum and the next model down in the Nissin line up.
The rods are very light for their length and extremely well balanced.
On his most recent trip to Japan, John Vetterli noted that the Nissin Zerosum was the rod most of the Japanese tenkara anglers he fished with were using. John and two partners formed Tenkara Guides, LLC in Salt Lake City, UT several years ago. It is the first tenkara-only guiding service in the US, and it hosts an annual "Oni School," bringing noted tenkara master Masami Sakakibari (known as Tenkara no Oni, which translates as Tenkara Demon, for his intensity when fishing). On a recent trip to Italy, Sakakibara san fished with a Zerosum 320 7:3.
The Nissin Zerosum is not just a good looking rod, it is a rod worthy of a master tenkara angler.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.