Tenkara is a style of "Fixed line" fishing, meaning that the line is attached to the end of the rod - there is no reel! The line is tied to a yarn-like extension of the rod called a lillian. At the end of the line is attached an even thinner section of material called tippet. The fly is then attached to the far end of the tippet.
Most average 8-14 feet long when fully extended, collapse down to around 20 inches when not in use, and weigh about 2-3 ounces. There is a practical purpose to the rod length. A Tenkara cast stops with the tip high, which allows the angler to keep the line off the water. This allows the system to offer extremely clean, virtually drag-free drifts when fished with proper technique!
Typically, manufacturers rate the action of a Tenkara rod with a ratio, like 5:5, 6:4, and 7:3. The first number is the amount of sections that are stiffer, the second number is the amount of sections that are more flexible. This also gives you a general idea of where the rod flexes - a 6:4 is most flexible 60% up the rod length.
Many people who come to Tenkara from a Western fly fishing background worry about using such a long rod. You'd be surprised how many tiny, brush choked streams are actually ideal for a long Tenkara rod. In fact, Tenkara rods are actually easier to use than western rods on many small streams. We like the 12 foot rod as a general all around Tenkara rod. You will find that the sensitivity of a longer rod makes catching even small trout and panfish a lot of fun, but the rod can easily handle larger trout and bass too!