Looking at the Senzan-maru, a Traditional Japanese Whaleboat

When I visited Japan in September, I found that I’d really hit the jackpot at the Toba Seafolk Museum. Not only are there numerous small boats on display, plus dioramas and a dozen or so models, but the gift shop is well stocked with books. I visited early in my trip, so I didn’t get as many books as I wanted to. Sadly, I didn’t see any of the books I was interested in at any other location I visited during the trip. One book I did pickup detailed a boat called the Senzan-maru, 千山丸.

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The Senzan-maru is the name given to a boat that was in the service of the Hachisuka clan. The boat was used to deliver messages and to help tow river barges, like the large decorative warship that served as the feudal lord’s yacht. The boat is a type called an Isanabune, a fast, seaworthy boat designed for whale hunting. Many whaleboats and fishing boats were decorated with painted designs on their hulls, but probably not to the same extent as Senzan-maru.

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The highly ornamental hull painting on the Senzanmaru

 

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The decorative bow of a Japanese fishing boat on display at the Toba Museum.

To my understanding, the boat was discovered in a storeroom at Tokushima Castle, and a careful study was done resulting in this book. I don’t know much about the boat, the type of boat, or the Hachisuka clan yet. And, while I have the book, it takes a long time for me to go through Japanese text.

The book includes plan drawings of the boat, and I hope to build a model at some point. However, I am still trying to understand the design of the boat’s interior and specific features. So, it will be some time before I am ready to build the model.

However, I discovered a very handy drawing in the book that lays out all the major hull components in one, unfolded piece. So, today, I decided to try piecing the hull together using this drawing like a paper model.

I began by photocopying the drawing and enlarging it to fill a sheet of regular office paper. Printed out, this was glued to a piece of heavy card stock, and I cut the model out carefully.

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I found that this folded fairly well into a one-piece model using Aileen’s Tacky Glue with blue painter’s tape to hold the the parts in place until the glue dried.

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It didn’t take long to fold into shape or for the glue to dry. The only thing now is to decide what I want to do with this. The model only consists of the planks and doesn’t include the many internal beams, rubrails, splash rails, mast step, rudder, or deck planking, etc.

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This looks a bit different from the actual Senzan-maru. So, perhaps it’s not what I think it is. It actually reminds of the small fast boats described by Commodore Perry’s expedition.

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I don’t know what more I will do to this small paper model, if anything. It was just something I’ve been kind of itching to put together ever since I saw the drawing in the book, and will serve to help me better understand the design of this boat type and wasen in general. Now that it’s pieced together, I’m considering enlarging the drawing to a proper scale and cutting planks from wood.

However, there are plenty of projects in the works, including a 1:10 scale model of an Urayasu Bekabune, which I also worked on this week. But, more on that later. Ω

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