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.
I recently ran across a website on the Internet for a class on Japanese maps and travel literature taught at the University of British Columbia. The site is a repository of student work and appears to be quite current.
I took particular interest in one piece of work on the Nihon Sankai Zudō Taizen, or the Complete Map of the Mountains and Seas of Japan. The map is a hand-colored woodblock print originally published in 1697. The student researched work discusses the map, its background, and some specific features shown on the map, namely, the boats depicted in the artwork.
1703 map from the open collection of the University of British Columbia
The article is interesting, and in fact the whole site is interesting. I don’t agree with the authors statement about the boats. I don’t think you can reliably discern anything about the types shown in the artwork. But, I did find it interesting to see my own Higaki Kaisen model shown in the section about bezaisen, and to see my personal ship model work website referenced regarding Tosa wasen, even if the author did misread the information I posted there.
In the last year or so, I’ve been working a lot on some wasen model scratch builds. There are the Hozugawa Ayubune, the Urayasu Bekabune, and others. In the meantime, my pile of Woody Joe kits keeps growing. So, I decided it’s time to get another one of these kits done. Luckily, Woody Joe kits are relatively quick builds.
The Kitamaebune or Kitamaesen kit is listed by Woody Joe as taking about 70 hours to build. Compare that to their more complex Higakikaisen kit, which takes about 50% longer to build. I spent about 3 months on that kit.
The Kitamaebune seems like it will take considerably less time to build the basic kit. But, this is the first bezaisen I’ve built since visiting Japan in 2016. There are a lot of details I managed to see up close on the Hakusan Maru, the bezaisen replica on Sado Island. So, I may put some extra work and time into this. Continue reading →
I just heard the sad news that the Hacchoro organization, which operates a pair of these replica bonito fishing boats, is shutting down. It was only a matter of time. When I visited Yaizu in 2016 and was given the opportunity to look over the boats up close, it was clear that they were deteriorating. I was told at that time that when the boats were no longer useable that they would not be rebuilt or replaced. To my knowledge, these are the largest wasen that were still in operation. I feel very fortunate to have had a chance to see them up close before they were gone for good. The Hacchoro measured 13-meters long, or just over 42 feet. The name literally means “8 oars”. These boats could also be rigged with three masts and sails when the winds were favorable. They vessels were used for bonito fishing and each carried as many as a dozen fishermen. The boats would travel to the fishing grounds and use a pole and line method for catching fish.
For more information about these boats of Yaizu, check out my post:
If you’re interested in building the kit, I’m considering doing a new build of an “upgraded” version of the kit, using my the notes I took on my 2016 visit to Yaizu, in addition to some other materials I’ve collected.
The Hacchoro replica boats were built with much enthusiasm and fanfare in the mid-to-late 90’s. Now, more than 20 years later, they are out of service. It’s not unexpected. Boats of this type were made for harsh use and not intended to last a long time. Much research was done to re-create them in the first place, and that work is not lost. Perhaps the Hacchoro will be back again one day, if only for a time. Ω
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. Continue reading →
A couple weeks ago, I reached a dilemma about the kobaya’s paint scheme. I’m trying to stay as true as I can to the 1868 notes by Armand Paris. He describes the lower hull, hanging beams and rail stanchions as painted in red lacquer. He then describes the interior deck area as being all painted a “blood red”.
This suggests two different shades of red, and there’s only one model I’ve seen that displays two shades. It is a model of the large gozabune Tenchi-maru, which was kept in use right up to the beginning of the Meiji restoration, 1868. From what I can tell, the model was part of the Tokyo Maritime Science Museum. Since the main museum is closed, I don’t know what the status is of this model.
But, since my kobaya also was apparently in use up until the start of the Meiji restoration, it might makes sense that dark red was common for the decks of these state ships, with red and black lacquered exteriors.
Model of the famous gozabune Tenchi-maru. Note the dark red deck areas, with the lighter red color for the hull.
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.