I just recently heard from boatbuilder Douglas Brooks that he is back in Japan again on a 7-week mission. This time, his goal is to travel to as many sites he can, where ukaibune, or cormorant fishing boats, are used. His trip began on October 30th and he’ll be traveling through Japan, with a brief stop in China to see the boats used there.
An Ukaibune built by Mr. Nasu.
As you may recall, cormorant fishing is an old method where fisherman used trained birds, cormorants, to fish in rivers. In Japan, the birds are called ukai, and the boats used in cormorant fishing are called ukaibune. Last year, Mr. Brooks documented construction of an ukaibune in Gifu prefecture with 85-year old traditional Japanese boatbuilder Seiichi Nasu. That boat was launched at the Ukai Museum in Gifu City in July 2017.
I brought my Kamakura period sea boat to the Nautical Research Guild Conference, which was held this past weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. I had some last minute work to complete, but finished in time for the model display.
Kamakura Period Sea Boat (鎌倉時代の海船) at the 2018 Nautical Research Guild Conference.
Preparing it for the display took a bit of last minute work. I hadn’t put the remaining oars on until I was actually in the hotel the night before. The reason for the delay was mostly due to my taking the model to the October meeting of the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights. Carrying around of model of this nature, or any nature I suppose, has certain hazzards associated with it. I had taken the model to the meeting of the South Bay Model Shipwrights the night before with no problems whatsoever.
Just a quick update on the model as I continue to make progress in small increments.
You may recall that this boat has one large sail. I don’t know if I will mount a sail on it or not. I find it rather interesting how the lowered mast is stowed. I think I have a method for creating the sail, which was made from rice-straw matting, not cloth. But, I will have other opportunities to make that, and it would probably be simpler and more realistic at a larger scale.
In any case, I also have the full set of oars I made. I’ve decided that even though the museum models I’ve seen show the boat equipped for sculling, that my interpretation of early scroll paintings suggest they were rowed and not sculled. Also, I started to thinking about the side-to-side motion involved in sculling, and I see only rope bindings on these oars in all cases (museum models).
I can’t see how rope bindings would be able to take the amount of side-to-side pressure without loosing very quickly. If rowed, the binding would simply be to hold the oar and keep it from slipping. All the force of propulsion from the oars are taken by the beam extensions of the ship.
1/10-scale Sandanbo, Kumanogawa Sailing Riverboat model by Kouichi Ohata
Kouichi Ohata is a Japanese model builder who’s work I’ve featured here before. The last model of his that I posted here was his Kumanogawa Hayabune. Living in souther Mie prefecture, Ohata-san has the opportunity to see a number of unique tradional Japanese watercraft, and he has put his modeling skills to good use in reproducing them in miniature.
As if my work wasn’t coming along slowly enough, a car accident and heavier work load managed to bring my ship modeling of all types to a standstill. After nearly two months of making no progress on anything, I finally found myself in a position to move forward again on the Umibune. I didn’t managed to figure out too much regarding the making of scale figures for the model, but I did finish tying the bindings on the rails. I also decided on how I wanted to finish the aft deckhouse, or yakata.
I basically returned to the idea of installing only lower panels on the sides of the structure. There seem to be a multitude of ways that artists and model makers have interpreted this design, so I just went with something I recall seeing in a painting. Is it accurate? There really doesn’t appear to be any way to know for sure. But, it seems reasonable. In the photos below, you can see the panels before installation, as well as how they look in place on the model. I originally built these slightly oversized, allowing me to adjust them to fit.
I must confess that I haven’t done much on the umibune model itself. I’ve mostly been working out details on how to make or modify figures for it. I’ve been using wire frames, modifying plastic figures, etc., trying to develop some skills that will work for me. More on this later.
I’ve also been testing out a way to make the large square sail for it. It’s a little different from other sails because sails weren’t made from cloth at that time in Japan. Instead, they were made from straw mat. They were heavy and bulky and you certainly didn’t want to get them wet. I’ve been looking at how these have been modeled on museum models and one large scale 1/10-scale model that someone sent me photos of.
Model that was on display during Douglas Brooks’ work at a museum in Kobe in 2016.
So, I drilled out the rogui on which the ro, or sculling oars, pivot. I used a sharp point to start the hole and finished up using a small drill in a Dremel rotary tool. Because I’m starting to consider painting the model, I’m going to hold off on adding the pins to the rogui until some later time.
Also, I found more structural work to complete before I have to deal with the rails, so I’m putting that assembly off for the moment.
Today, I finished the remaining mortises. I did these the same way as the ones done earlier, laying out strips of tape to maintain even spacing, but the mortises at the todate (transom) and the miyoshi (stem), were a little smaller and slightly closer together.
This last week, I just learned of another museum in Japan that might be of interest. It’s not a large museum, and for most people, it probably wouldn’t make for an important destination. But, for a ship modeler interested in traditional Japanese watercraft, particularly ones of the larger variety, this one has something of special interest.
The museum apparently consists of a lobby entrance with some exhibition areas that surround a large courtyard. There is one main level and a smaller exhibition space upstairs. But, it is on the main level that there is a collection of what I believe are eight 1/10-scale models of sailing ships from Japanese history.
Among these are a few bezaisen, or coastal transports, a later period ship that, from photos I’ve seen, appears to be a schooner, a pair of Edo period warships and a pair of gozabune.
1/10-scale Kumanogawa Hayabune model by Kouichi Ohata
Kouichi Ohata is a Japanese model builder who lives in the southern end of Mie prefecture, near the Pacific Coast. He runs the family orange orchards, and in his spare time, creates some magnificent works including a large 1/35-scale RC model of the Flower-class corvette H.M.S. Compass Rose, from the film and the book The Cruel Sea.