Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船)- Plans Reconstruction

Back in March of this year, I was digging through the images of the wasen recorded in the Funakagami. This, as you might recall, is a book put together in 1802 to identify the different boat types in use on the waterways of Edo for tax collection purposes.

There was an excellent short article that appeared in issue number 82 of The Rope News about a talk given in 2014 by Mr. Iinuma, who was the curatorial director of the Museum of Maritime Science in Tokyo. The talk focussed on the Funakagami and the boats described in it. Here’s a link to it if you haven’t seen it: The Rope News, No. 82

I’ve been looking over the 33 boats shown in the book, trying to find a subject that I felt I could model. Unfortunately, I’ve found no technical drawings for any of these boats. But, there was one that piqued my interest, as it’s name became more meaningful as my Japanese language skills improved. That boat was the Tenma-zukuri Chabune.

Chabune, literally translates to “tea boat”, referring to the small boats that travelled up and down the busy rivers, selling tea and various other foodstuffs to the occupants of other boats. The term is also general one that applies to water taxis, which are more specifically referred to as Chokibune.

So, one day, I realized that Tenma-zukuri means “Tenma-style”. Now a Tenma, or Tenmasen, is a cargo boat or type of lighter used in loading and unloading larger vessels in port. So, in my mind, Tenma-zukuri, means a boat that constructed like a Tenmasen. And, it turns out that this boat bore a resemblence to the Tenmasen built by Douglas Brooks with his teacher Mr. Kazuyoshi Fujiwara in 2002.

Tenmasen built by Douglas Brooks and his teacher. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

So, I had found a boat-type, a Chabune, built in the fashion of a Tenmasen. But, with no technical drawings available, just a painting from a 200 year-old book, to build a model I would have to create my own set of drawings.

The Funakagami does give some basic hull dimensions, but the text was not very clear, so I consulted with my contacts in Japan to help out. One was able to suggest that the general dimension given are that the length is 2 jyō (1 jyō = 10 shaku), 1 or 2 shaku with a width of 5 or 6 shaku. A second set of figures suggests a length of about 3 jyō, and a width of 7 or 8 shaku.

So, I figured I’d go for a boat 2 jyō, 1 shaku long, which is 21 shaku, or roughly 21 feet. The width will be about 5 shaku or 5 feet.

Using these dimensions and the painting, plus some photos of Douglas Brooks’s tenmasen, I’m now working on a basic line drawing using Adobe Illustrator. I’d use a CAD program, but I’m not very well versed in any, and I do have a fair amount of Illustrator experience. I came up with a drawing, which is just a starting point.

An early version of my Tenma-zukuri Chabune drawing.

At the time of this writing, I’ve already made several revisions. I’ve shown my drawings to model builder Kouichi Ohata, who lives in Mie prefecture, Japan. He drew up plans for the Kumanogawa Hayabune and and built a model in 1/10 scale, as well a beautiful model of a Sandanbo, another local river boat, so I am hoping he can make some suggestions about this drawing.

I am proud to say that he is interested in building a model of a Tenma-zukuri Chabune using my drawings. So, I want them to be as good as I can make them, probably with a lot of his help.

I have contacted Douglas Brooks with some questions about the boat he built with his teacher. However, he’s currently touring Ukaibune in Japan and he will probably need to review his notes, which are at his home. So, I may have to wait another month before I get answers. Ω


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