Painted Patterns on Kujirabune (Whale boats)

Kujirabune, also know as Isanabune, were fast boats designed for hunting whales. These boats often had brightly painted sides, decorated with symbols, crests, chrysanthemums, and other themes.

One such boat that I’ve mentioned specifically here is the Senzanmaru, a boat used by the  Hachizuka to deliver dispatches and to tow large gozabune, highly decorated yachts used by the clan.

Senzan-maru, a whale boat used by the Hachitsuka clan.

Today, I was admiring a Facebook post by a gentleman I’ve recently been in contact with who has an interest in wasen and took some photos of a group of whaleboats that were on shore in Kumano city, on the Southeastern tip of Shikoku island. I looked up the city on the Internet and one thing led to another. Next thing I know, I ran across an english language web page for the town of Taiji (yes, it’s the same town that has become somewhat infamous for its annual dolphin slaughter), which illustrates a large number of whaleboats of different types and their colorful painted hull patterns.

Chaser Boat No. 6, an 8-oared boat with a crew of 15. From the Taijiri town website.

There are more than 40 boats and patterns viewable on the web page: http://taiji.town/kujirabune/

But, the whole website is actually very interesting and informative. It appears that it was purposely designed to be a politically neutral, informative site on Taiji an its history in Japanese and English. Visit http://taiji.town

One thing I’m intrigued about is from the whale boats page when you click the About button. There is a detailed plan on the page. It’s too small to use, but I will be asking some friends if they can find out if these plans might be available from the museum. If so, you’re sure to hear about it here.

The Rope: Article on the Funakagami and Historical Japanese Boats

Continuing with a string of posts about the Japanese ship model society, The Rope, here’s a short, but very interesting article describing a talk given by the curatorial director of the Tokyo Museum of Maritime Science. In this talk, Mr. Iinuma describes Japanese historical boats and the role of the book, Funakagami. I posted about this earlier in the year, along with a link to a downloadable pdf copy of the book. This article in The Rope News is a better discussion of the book that mine, and it’s a very short summary.

 

Cover of the Funakagami

I read this and, learned a few key things that I didn’t know about. One in particular was why the stem (the term bowsprit is mistakenly used here) on many yakatabune shown in wood block prints, look incomplete. I’ll let you read that answer for yourself. You can read the article online or download a copy:

https://theropetokyo-en.jimdo.com/japanese-ships-1/archive-of-documents/

And, here is a link to my own blog post on the Funakagami where you can download a copy directly from the Tokyo Museum of Maritime Science: https://wasenmodeler.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/funakagami-a-pdf-book-on-japanese-boat-types-2/

 

The Rope: Photo Gallery of Japanese Sailing Ships and Boats

I only just discovered that there is a page on the website of the Japanese ship model society The Rope that features models of Japanese ships. These include some modern era ships, but several Edo period ships are represented. This group does some really beautiful work, which I recommend checking out.

Here’s a link to the page, which is on the English language section of their website: https://theropetokyo-en.jimdo.com/japanese-ships-1/photo-gallery-of-japanese-ships/

 

Building the Kamakura Period Umi-Bune, Part 6

As I mentioned in my last post on this model, I’d been wrestling with the configuration of the roofs. The 1/20-scale museum model that I often see reference on the web, differs from Professor Ishii’s 3-view illustration that I’ve mostly been basing construction on. Those drawings are more of a match to the early scroll paintings. Oddly enough, none of the models I’ve seen match them exactly. Is it possible that the builders had access to more updated information? Or did they just decide that the Ishii-san was wrong? But, then what about the scroll paintings? Are they simply written off as being wrong?

As you can see in the photo below, which was taken at a ship model club meeting, I initially made flat roofs panels. If I could justify them, they would certainly be the simplest to construct.

Flat roof panel initially constructed is seen in foreground.

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On Amazon – Illustrated History of Japanese Traditional Boats by Kenji Ishii

I had to post this, because it is a very rare find. This book, written by Professor Kenji Ishii, was published in 1983 and is pretty much the bible of historical Japanese watercraft.

Illustrated History of Japanese Traditional Boats

This is the primary source for my own research on the subject of wasen, or traditional Japanese boats. I bought my copy used from Japan and it cost me around $170 with shipping. It was definitely worth the investment, as this information is extremely hard to  find anywhere else, especially outside of Japan.

Well, today, I was updating my post on my Kamakura period large sea boat project and I thought I see if I could find a link to this book on Amazon.com. I did and lo-and-behold, there’s an actual copy available in the U.S. for about $100!

https://www.amazon.com/Wasen-Shiwa-History-Japanese-Ships/dp/B00IOZFMPG/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1502065748&sr=8-9&keywords=kenji+ishii

I had to pass this along to readers here – this is a steal! I’m surprised to even see it listed here, because it’s written entirely in Japanese, so I wouldn’t expect copies to be turning up in the U.S. again, except in very rare cases. In fact, I don’t even see it listed on Amazon Japan at the moment.

Buy it before it’s gone. Seriously.

New Tool Additions – Mini Block Plane and Carving Chisels

These have already been put to use on my wasen modeling projects.

The block plane is great when working with Japanese cedar. The wood grain is so hard, it’s difficult to work it with cutting tools. But, I think the miniature block plane will handle it well.

Of course, the carving chisels are great for cutting mortises. But, I will have to work to keep them sharp.

The Ship Modeler

I don’t really write about tools much. I know a lot more about ship models than tools. But, I  acquired a few new tools that I thought I’d share here.

Miniature Block Plane

A few weeks ago, I was looking through a Lee Valley Tools catalog. They’re a Canadian based manufacturer and retailer of woodworking and wood restoration hardware. I get their catalog periodically after a fellow ship modeler recommended one of their products.

One thing that I’ve been trying to do more in ship modeling is using a plane in shaping square stock for masts and spars. But, regular hand planes seem overly large and bulky. There are razor planes made for hobbyists, but they are pretty low quality and I haven’t found them to be very useful in ship modeling work. Then, I spotted some miniature planes in the Lee Valley Tools catalog and decided to order one.


This…

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Tosa Wasen Youtube Video

This is my second youtube video, which is again actually a slide show. The first one was of the Shinmei-zukuri shrine model from Woody Joe that I built a few months ago. This time, I went back to my Tosa Wasen model from Thermal Studio.

I’m still learning how to use the Youtube editor, but I just found out that it’s going away on September 20th of this year. That’s actually okay, because it works very similarly to Apple’s iMovie software, which I’ve used before, and will just have to go back and use again. Also, iMovie has more control over audio tracks. With the Youtube editor, I’m mostly trying to fit the video to exact length of the audio, which is kind of a drag.

In any case, you can view the Tosa Wasen video below.

Again, I’m happy to hear from anyone with suggestions. Please check it out.

Can a Kobaya be Built from Paris Plans?

Kobaya is a term for a type of smaller military style vessel that is fast and maneuverable. Highly ornate versions of these and larger military vessels called Sekibune were used by Daimyo and their clans for ceremonial and other official purposes. I don’t know about the smaller ones, but the larger ones were called Gozabune.

 

Photo of a 30-oar Kobaya, of small fast-boat, from a display of models built by Yukio Nakayama. Photo is courtesy of The Rope.

Ship modelers building American or European subjects are accustomed to finding detailed drawingsfor the more popular of these vessels. There are even large numbers of plans made specifically for ship modelers. But, unlike with western subjects, there is a dearth of plans of Japanese watercraft. I’ve found plenty of sketches and there are basic line drawings that might be used, but these commonly don’t have the information needed to build a proper model.

One reason for this is that Japanese boatbuilders don’t have a tradition of recording their work, and they generally only make temporary drawings on wood, sometimes destroying them when done.

Japanese boatbuilder’s plank drawings. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

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Higaki Kaisen Article Part 3

The third and final part of my Higaki Kaisen build article is out with the latest issue of Seaways’ Ships in Scale. While I was actually relieved to see the previous article, so those building the kit would have the information I’m trying to pass along, it’s kind of sad this time around. Though I’ve had other multi-part articles published in the magazine, I’d really like to keep writing about this kit to generate more interest in this and other Woody Joe kits.

Of course, there are other Woody Joe kits to write about. It’s been my plan to write about building the Hacchoro with modifications based on my visit to the replica boats in Yaizu harbor. But, it takes time and I have other projects I need to be working on. So, finding time for that one will be a bit rough.

But, at least all the information on the kit is in print, and hopefully, interested model builders will take advantage of the information, go out and buy the kit, and have a fun and successful build.

 

Of course, I’ll keep posting info about this and other traditional Japanese watercraft here. So, stay tuned!

From Douglas Brooks – The Cormorant Fishing Boat is Done

I got an email this morning from American boatbuilder Douglas Brooks, who has been in Japan, studying and constructing an Ukaibune, or a traditional river fishing boat used by the cormorant fishermen of Gifu prefecture.

Photo of completed Ukaibune courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

The boat is reportedly 42 feet long, 4 feet wide, and used some 900 nails in construction. And, for those not familiar with Japanese traditional boat construction, we’re not talking about wire nails, we’re talking about hand-forged flat iron nails.

A pair of Japanese made iron nails used in wooden boatbuilding.

The boat will launch in one week.

Learn more by visiting his blog at: http://blog.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com

As always, I can’t recommend his book enough. Order direct from his website to assure that all proceeds go to help fund additional research. Plus, short of meeting the author in person, this is the only way to get an inscribed copy: http://douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/japanese_wooden_boatbuilding.html

Tell him I sent you and you’ll help give me more leverage to get him to provide some plans for ship/boat modelers to scratch build from.