Meet Tomoya Shirakawa, founder and designer of Division Rebel Tackles/DRT. A Japan-based rod and tackle goods manufacturer that caught my attention about 9 years ago. Clean, bold with a touch of edge, his design style, aesthetic, and attention to detail in his products was enough to satisfy my creative tastebuds and the obsession for big bait and tackle. Our very own, Takakazu Yamazaki was fortunate to conduct what may be the first interview of Tomoya Shirikawa for any US-based online platform.
KAZU: Can you tell us the origin story of DRT?
Tomoya: Here is a story how DRT started 10 years ago.
I started to build rods because I was not happy with the existing rods in the market, even when I ordered custom made rods from the local fishing store. I began to build my own with blanks, but soon I realized this still could not satisfy my desires. I then went on to look for an OEM rod blank factory, but it took me some time to find a manufacturer which accepted a small lot. After struggling, I finally managed to build my rod with highly satisfied preferences, but also at a higher cost.
Even though it was produced in a small lot, I did not have enough money for a full production. The amount of budget is much more than you would usually spend for your own hobbies. I thought to myself, how can I? I then thought it would be a great idea to establish a fishing brand to sell rods. Then, "DIVISION REBEL TACKLES" was launched.
Although I didn't even have 1 yen in my savings account, and all my friends said that my plans were reckless, somehow I had strong self confidence (lol) which eventually lead me to successfully getting a financial loan from the government.
When I moved to Lake Biwa, my dream life had begun, but no one knew my brand, so it took over half a year to sell my first rod (CRIME). While I built custom ordered rods, I also had a part-time job to support my living. I could not pay my rent, the electricity was cut, but I continued to build rods without giving up. I handed out flyers, utilized SNS (Text Messaging) that fortunately got DRT on track.
Thanks for all the support and understanding from my friends that built up DRT today.
Instead of products that market sells, we keep researching and creating gear that we want and for hunting targets in daily activities.
"Although I didn't even have 1 yen in my savings account, and all my friends said that my plans were reckless, somehow I had strong self confidence."
KAZU: What is the background of Shirakawa?
Tomoya: I started fishing in elementary school, besides that my interest was in music and street culture. I enjoyed skateboarding and playing in bands. I have worked at a record store, painting, welding, and all my experiences reflects to DRT products. For instance, when I was in a band (Alternative/Hip Hop/Punk/Hardcore etc.) I have done designs of flyers and production of videos with analog mixing methods.
KAZU: Can you tell us about the DRT staff and team?
Tomoya: There are many who can catch fish well, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're fit to be a DRT staff. I do not need staff who admire me. All I need is somebody who can share the vision of DRT’s creation for the future. I want their opinion and thoughts for us to continue enjoying bass fishing for the generations.
Today, all the DRT staffs have a say. I appreciate everyday for their opinions that are really valuable for the future of DRT.
KAZU: What is your impression from your past trip to USA and what do you hope for the next?
Tomoya: It was such a happy moment to share real communication with West Coast swimbait anglers. Since I started bass fishing, I have been looking up to America and I am glad my fishing brand lead me to visit there. Just standing by the side of California waterside was such a dream come true.
The main purpose for my next visit will be for business discussion and product testing. Upon DRT USA establishment, I would like to make it more convenient for the customers to purchase DRT products. Of course, I am really looking forward to testing my swimbaits in California.
"Since I started bass fishing, I have been looking up to America and I am glad my fishing brand lead me to visit there. "
KAZU: Can you give us your comparison of fishing scenes between the USA and Japan?
Tomoya: They are totally different.
First, I would point out that bass fishing in Japan does not seem positive, meaning that in general, black bass has been recognized as a harmful fish, and also anglers’ lack of manner (leaving trash, etc.) are resulting negative social image. That’s why we have been running counter activities such as cleaning up environment event and promoting black bass as a beneficial fish. At the last visit in the USA, I was really impressed that black bass has been accepted by the people in the town.
I noticed a great difference in lure designs after getting to know anglers in California and US big bait. In regards to swimbait, big bait that swims head is productive in our home, Lake Biwa. In addition, the rolling action and speed are required. The reason is found in the way ‘Hasu’, one of the main bait fish of Lake Biwa, swims. Hasu is considered as the fastest swimmer in Japanese freshwater that swims its head at slow speed. It is known that black bass adapted to Biwa, with smallmouth and potbelly is able to swim faster than Hasu for predation. On the other hand, in the USA slow lure action without moving head is more effective in general.
Known as the world record holding lake, Biwa is a place for many bank anglers to perform as trophy hunters. Under 13lb. bass has been caught many every year in Lake Biwa, but over 13lb. bass has been very rare that only several fish are caught annually.
"I started fishing in elementary school, besides that my interest was in music and street culture."
KAZU: Can you tell us about DRT USA's operation?
Tomoya: One of my team members, Rafael has started up the company, DRT USA. We are putting all the effort to make more anglers to get to know DRT products in America. We promise that DRT will have wider distribution from now on. You can bet that!
KAZU: Would you like to share a message to SBSRFC and its community?
Tomoya: Fishing, fashion, art, and music. They are the essence and necessary part of life of DRT crew, too. Subsurface is really attractive because they got them all! Hope to continue seeing the latest and fresh information that inspires our creative activities. I love them!
"We are putting all the effort to make more anglers to get to know DRT products in America."
Founder/Creator of SBSRFC & Bass Brigade