The Shimano Tenkara Rods introduced within the last few years are soft,
full flex rods that are just a joy to fish with.
The Shimano Keiryu (Mountain Stream) Tenkara 34-38 ZL is a variable length (zoom) rod that can be fished with the rod at either 3.4 or 3.8 meter lengths. Perhaps the most surprising aspect about the rod is that it is firmer at the shorter length than it is at the longer length.
That is unlike nearly all other variable length rods. Normally, the longer length is firmer because there is one more section, and it is the thicker, stiffer section near the grip. The way a variable length rod works is clever. When any tenkara rod is collapsed, all the smaller sections are nested within the larger sections, and all of them are nested inside the grip section.
When a variable length rod with two possible lengths, like the 34-38ZL, is extended, the first section above the grip can be extended, resulting in the longer of the two lengths or left within the grip section, resulting in the shorter of the two lengths. When it (the "zooming" section), is left inside the grip, it is held securely so it doesn't rattle when you cast the rod.
The more you think about it, though, the more the Shimano Keiru Tenkara 34-38 design makes sense. Japanese anglers prefer a slightly firmer rod for fishing smaller, tighter streams, where casting precision is at a premium. A slightly firmer rod can generate slightly higher line speed, which produces more accuracy. The silky smooth casting of a softer rod is more highly valued on larger streams, where pinpoint accuracy is not as critical.
The Shimano Keiryu Tenkara 34-38ZL is also designed for the way Japanese tenkara anglers fish and the fish they catch. The rod is very clearly a rod intended for fishing unweighted flies. It is almost magical when casting an unwieghted fly. With a bead head nymph, though, the magic is gone. You can do it, but it just doesn't feel the same.
It is also a rod for smaller fish. Although you can land larger fish with the rod, it is wonderful with the 8-10" fish that most Japanese tenkara anglers catch. With one twice that size, your heart will be in your throat.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.