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.
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 →
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.
This line of products includes sakura, cherry blossom trees, Japanese pines, cypress trees, box trees, cedar trees, generic broadleaf and conifer trees and other vegetation. There are also bags of ground cover for simulating grass, dirt, and gravel.
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.
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.
Not sure when I’ll have a chance to start this, but I recently broke down and ordered another kit from Zootoyz.jp, Woody Joe’s Kitamaebune kit.
This is the company’s latest wasen model kit offering, but has actually been out on the market for quite some time. The release date was February of 2016, I believe. But, I’ve been too busy with other projects to pay too much attention. Finally, with all my Japanese models on display for a month, the emptiness at home must have gotten to me (that and some extra money I’ve managed to set aside), and I ordered one from Japan.
The postman is very accustomed to delivering these EMS packages from Japan.