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Japan's Growing Obsession with Bass Fishing & American Sports Culture

With over 1 Million people in the country obsessing over giant swim baits, high performance reels, and decked out bass boats, Japan has a fanatical 'bass fishing culture' that is overcoming many of the limitations in Japan and spreading to the United States.

The 2022 "Basser All-Star Classic" tournament and fishing event in Chiba, Japan saw thousands of people and over 100 companies show up to embrace a sub-culture that goes largely unnoticed by most people living in Japan.

Walking around the event, we were met with curious eyes and fascination. As the only 2 foreigners in attendance that day, it became apparent that a heavily influenced American culture surrounded us and that we too were contributing to the fascination of bass fishing in Japan.

What struck me most about the people in attendance was their fanatical embracing of an "alternative" lifestyle. It was a strange combination of humble countryside living / meets Jay-Z at a skateboarding event. Yes, it was that kind of odd combination which really makes bass fishing in Japan a very unique experience.

Japan's Unique Bass Fishing Culture

Japan loves fish.

It embraces fishing.

But bass fishing has been proclaimed as "not real fishing" in the eyes of some.

Much like skateboarding and alternative forms of music, the bass fishing culture has a distinct look and feel to it that is being embraced by younger generations of Japanese who want to express themselves through this alternative 'brand' tied with bass fishing culture. It's inspiring artists and designers to apply their talents to the sport such as Fullten and Wild Lures.

Clothing and fashion also plays a huge role in bass fishing culture in Japan.

Taking things to the extreme other end of the head-scratching spectrum, you can find musings such as "Bass Fishing Bingo" entertainment to enjoy via "Shokuro's Fishing" YouTube channel.

Bass Fishing is Connecting Japan & America

The pipeline of Japanese pro bass anglers heading to the US to compete in bass fishing tournaments has been strong for decades.

Japanese fishing equipment manufacturers have always garnered the respect of anglers worldwide and have integrated into the American bass fishing culture rather seamlessly. Big brands such as Daiwa, Shimano, and Yamaha have been a staple of bass fishing in the US for years.

Now, the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) is also expanding overseas. The Hook Up Tackle and Tackle Warehouse are US-based company providing smaller Japanese brands an opportunity to sell their products overseas.

The emergence of online media and e-commerce has opened up the flood gates for smaller Japanese bass brands to align with sub-cultures within the bass fishing community as well.

Take the emergence of up-and-coming bass brand DRT out of Shiga, Japan. They've established DRT USA as a brand with a specific American appeal. Going one step further to integrate into the American sub-culture, DRT works with US-based brand "Working Class Zero" to form a cross-border relationship that is blind to nationality.

It's this type of cross-border cohesion I've seen emerging they last few years that makes bass fishing such a unique bi-cultural platform between Japan and the United States, much like other US-centric sports such as baseball and basketball that are embraced in Japan.

As borders have now been opened between the two countries, anglers from the US are eyeing visits to Lake Biwa with the hopes of landing a football-sized "Biwa bass". On the flip side, Japanese pro anglers will continue to make their name in the major US bass tournaments. This will no doubt inspire avid anglers from Japan to plan "fishing holidays" throughout the United States, boosting the tourism economy for years to come.


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