As you may recall, I’ve been reading about the Marukobune of Lake Biwa. In the book, there are some small drawings of various boat used in and around the lake. Besides the Marukobune, which was a cargo and passenger transport, there were fishing boats and rice field boats, the latter often being used for various tasks.
Marukobune on Lake Biwa
I was intrigued by the many small wasen types, so I’ve been on a hunt for better drawings. The ones in the book are nice, but they were scanned and printed at a fairly low resolution, as they appear pretty small in the book. They also have no scale.
This is just a short update on the Kitamaebune build.
I added a couple pieces to the transom to simulate the plank that seems to show up on every benzaisen model or image I’ve seen.
In the above image, the red arrows point to the plank that I’m referring to. The blue arrow points to the very tip of the side planking at the stern. The piece in the Woody Joe kit is truncated close to where the dashed blue line is, and actually a bit lower than that, really.
Now is the time I find out how I did in the earlier steps of construction. The biggest challenge of kits with laser-cut parts, particularly hull planking, is that if you don’t get it exactly right, you end up with gaps or parts that don’t fit quite right. Even worse, it’s a sign that something else is off and may cause you more problems down the road. You just have to consider it a challenge.
So, the next steps involve adding bulwarks pieces that contains holes for all the beams. These nicely aligns all the beams. There are two pieces for each side of the hull that fit together end-to-end, with a neat, pre-cut scarf joint betweent. The diagram in the instructions, makes it look like you’re supposed to glue the pieces together, so you have one full-length piece for each side, but don’t do it. You’ll have problems fitting the pieces into place over the beam ends and, in the process, the glue joint at the scarf will likely pop loose. As with all hull planks and such, it’s always a good idea to wet the pieces and bend them to shape prior to installation.
Another tricky part about installing these pieces is that they need to fit flat against the first bulwarks sheets that were installed earlier. Not a big deal except at the stem, where the glue joint between the stem and the very thin bulwarks sheet is pretty weak. If you apply any pressure while trying to get things to fit, this glue joint may fail. I’d suggest using a heavier bead of glue, but I believe this area inside the model will be visible when completed, and the glue will probably show up well.
I don’t have a good photo of this step, so I used a later photo and added arrows to illustrate the position of these pieces.
My next display of models of Japanese traditional boats will run through the month of February in the display window of the Union Bank community room inside the Japan Center’s East Mall. It’s hard to believe, but this will be my eighth such display.
I made two more tall stands this week, giving me a total of seven stands, which is enough to put all the models I brought last time up on stands, getting them up off the floor of the display window. However, I’d like to put my Kobaya model on display too, even though it’s not yet complete – I did the same thing with my Kamakura period Umi-bune last time, which is done now.
The Kobayabune, though not complete, is my latest addition to the Japanese boats display.
The display includes the following models:
Higaki Kaisen – 1/72-scale Woody Joe kit of a coastal transport.
Hacchoro – 1/24-scale Woody Joe kit of a Yaizu bonito fishing boat.
Yakatabune – 1/24-scale Woody Joe kit of an Edo period pleasure boat.
Tosa Wasen – 1/10-scale Thermal Studio kit of a Tosa fishing boat.
Kamakura period Umibune – a 1/50 scale model of a trade boat, c. 1300AD
Hozugawa Ayubune – 1/10-scale model of a fishing boat from the Hozu river.
Urayasu Bekabune – 1/10-scale model of a Tōkyō Bay seaweed gathering boat.
Kobaya – 1/32-scale model of a boat belonging to the Shōgun’s government.
It is now set up and will be available for viewing through the morning of 2/28/19.
Work on the drawings of the Tenma-zukuri chabune continues. Over the past months, I’ve been making changes to my drawings of this wasen that I found in the the Funakagami. With the help of fellow modeler Kouichi Ohata and my mentor Douglas Brooks, I’ve gone through several revisions of the plans – seven major ones, so far.
Tenma-zukuri chabune, from the Funakagami.
The biggest difficult has been in analyzing the single wood-block print of this type. Compared to other boats in the Funakagami, this one has a very flat bottom, showing no real rise at the stern, which may be possible, but it’s really throwing people, as it seems very unusual for a Japanese style boat.
Also, if you look at the near side of the boat, particularly the bottom, it doesn’t appear to show any inward curvature. This threw me initially, as this is, again, pretty unusual. It’s not impossible, as the hozugawa boat I built doesn’t have any inward curvature at the stern either. But, looking more closely, at the far side, you can clearly detect inward curvature at the stern. The lack of curvature had bothered some people, so I’m glad I could spot some in the image to justify it on my drawings.
Work continues on the Kitamaebune kit from Woody Joe. This 1/72-scale laser-cut kit is the simplified cousin to their earlier Higaki-Kaisen kit. The Kitamaebune is a northern port coastal transport used extensive in the Edo period. Because they sailed on the stormier Sea of Japan, they were a bit beefier than the Higaki-Kaisen, which journeyed along the Pacific coast between Osaka and Edo.
At this stage, the model is shown with a bulwarks sheet test fit into place.
Overall, I’ve found that while this build is less time consuming than the Higaki-Kaisen kit, it has its challenges, even with simplified construction.
Last week, I wrote a post about a pair of articulated 1/10-scale figures I bought made by Bandai of Japan called Body-Kun. The figures are a bit short, but a little long in the legs, so I hope to modify them slightly to make them a little closer to correct height by adding a little filler in their midsections. Ideally, I’d add some filler into the arms too, and make the heads a little larger. But, reasonably, I can only do so much.
In any case, I’m pretty sure I can do something with them, so I went ahead and ordered another pair off of Ebay for just over $30. However, I noticed that there was apparently another version, which had replacement arms and legs, to allow the figure to naturally sit seiza, or “Japanese-style”, and to allow him to have his arms folded across his chest or just his hands folded in front of him.
The biggest differences I realized only after getting the figures was that they’re a little skinnier than the other figure and, more importantly, they’re barefooted, which is exactly what I need for Japanese figures of this period. I can always rig zoris, Japanese-style sandals, waraji, straw sandals that are tied around the foot, etc.
Original figure on the left, the new one I received on the right. I think I chipped the chin of the new figure, which is why it looks a little odd. Should be repairable without too much trouble.
For the past many months, I’ve been feeling the need to add figures to my models. The models, by themselves, are nice. But to really give the feel of how the boats were used requires additional details, and figures have the added benefit of creating a sense of scale.
I’m not very good at making figures yet, but I’m working on it. In the meantime, I’m trying to use commercially available figures. This isn’t all that difficult in scales like 1/32 (Kobaya), 1/48 (my Kamakura period sea boat is 1/50 – close enough), 1/72 (Higaki Kaisen). But, many of my small boat models are in 1/10 scale. Finding a figure in the right size for a 1/10-scale model is pretty difficult, but I finally settled on something that looks like it might work.
A while ago, I saw some ads for a pair of fully articulated figures, one male, one female. The figures are produced by Bandai, a Japanese toy company that makes action figures. The figures are part of a line called S.H. Figuarts, with the male figure called Body-Kun, and the female figure called Body-Chan.
In early November, boatbuilder Douglas Brooks wrote a post on his blog about an unusual type of boat found in the area of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, which is located northeast of Kyōto. The boats feature a slightly rounded, sharply angled bow, built of narrow staves, called Heita.
Heita bow construction on Lake Biwa boats. Photos courtesy of Douglas Brooks.
Boats of Lake Biwa. Photos courtesy of Douglas Brooks.
The heita-built bow is a type of construction common to many boats of Lake Biwa, including fishing boats, cargo boats, and even rice field boats. Mr. Brooks specifically mentions Marukobune (Mah-roo-koh-boo-nay). Though the boats he shows on his blog are not Marukobune, they share the same style of bow construction, and his mention of Marukobune in particular intrigued me, as I’d seen something about this type before, but didn’t know anything about it.
It’s been well over a month since I last posted my progress on the Kobaya-bune. And, while it doesn’t look much different, I did complete the deck planks and gave the hull a couple coats of gloss polyurethane, in an attempt to simulate the lacquer used on the real vessel.
I must have put on thick coats, because the surface has been tacky for a while. It doesn’t help that the weather is a little on the damp and cool side. No matter, I’m not really prepared for the next step, which is to add the decoration, as well as the metal mortise covers, etc.