Wooden Japanese Traditional Boats – The World of Yukio Nakayama

木造和船 中山幸雄の世界

Yes! I managed to stumble across Mr. Yukio Nakayama’s wordpress blog site by pure chance today. I’ve know about this man and his work for about a year now. One of my Japanese ship model contacts even sent me some photos of the man’s work at an exhibition several months ago, but he never put me in contact with him.

I wasn’t too worried because my Japanese language skills are not good and I figured it would just be either frustrating or annoying for Mr. Nakayama if I tried to communicate with him, though I did find someone else who offered to put me in touch with him. Now that I’ve found his blog, I may just have to try.

In the meantime, you can visit his site and poke around and see some of his work on his blog. You’ll find a few drawings, plus photos of several of his models.

All his models are the same scale, 1/70 I believe.

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Source: 木造和船 中山幸雄の世界

The above link will take you to his blog, but here’s the URL: http://edowasen.wordpress.com

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From Douglas Brooks – The Cormorant Fishing Boat is Done

I got an email this morning from American boatbuilder Douglas Brooks, who has been in Japan, studying and constructing an Ukaibune, or a traditional river fishing boat used by the cormorant fishermen of Gifu prefecture.

Photo of completed Ukaibune courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

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Hiratabune Model – Edo Tokyo Museum

This is one of those posts where I am really putting my knowledge, or possibly my lack knowledge, out on the Internet. When I visited the Edo Tokyo Museum last September, I found a model that I was extremely happy to find, as it gave me a first-hand look at a boat type that I have been very interested in learning more about.

The boat was labeled a Takasebune, and I first encountered it in the Funakagami, a book published back in 1802, which was used to help identify different river boat types for tax purposes. The Takasebune is a type of riverboat used to carry goods, and specific size and designs varied, but they are generally shallow draft boats with single plank sides that are nearly vertical, and the bow is a flat plank or a pair of planks joined at a slight angle.

The model in the Edo Tokyo Museum was clearly labeled a Takasebune in Japanese and in English, and I was really happy to find it. I took a number of photos to catch all the details I could. But, it was after reviewing the photos of the model and further studying the boat types that I discovered a problem with the model’s identification.

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Mitobune (ミト船) Model – Toba Seafolk Museum

At the Toba Seafolk Museum, I encountered boats and boat models of types I’d never heard of before. That of course is no surprise given my novice status in the study of traditional Japanese boats. But, the number of boat names and terms was quite overwhelming. If I am going to continue studying wasen (tradtional Japanese boats), then I’m going to have to return to Toba at some point, armed with a better understanding of what I’ll see again there.

In this case, there was a nice model of a gyosen (漁船) or fishing boat called a Mitobune (ミト船).

According to the placard, the boat was a type of fishing boat used on the Kumanonada Sea, which is the area of the Pacific Ocean to the south of Kumano prefecture.

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Higaki Kaisen Model (檜垣回線) – Edo Tokyo Museum

The subject of my second Japan boat/model posts is a large Higaki Kaisen model (檜垣回線) located in the Edo Tokyo Museum. The ship is a type of sengokubune (千石船), or 1000 koku ship, a type of bezaisen (弁才船) or coastal transport.

The model is one of the largest models I’ve seen in Japan so far, very nicely detailed, and is particularly nice in that it is relatively easy to photograph as it is fairly well lit and you don’t have to shoot through glass or acrylic. I don’t know the exact scale, but I think it must be about 1/10-scale. I believe there is a larger model in Japan, but this one is readily accessible.

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Japanese Boats Diorama Exhibit in Tokyo, April 29 – May 14

I just learned that there is a special exhibit taking place at the Tokyo Museum of Maritime Science of a diorama of late Edo period Japanese boats. The exhibit will be in the museum lobby from April 29th through May 14th, 2017.

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Sengokubune Model (千石船模) – Toba Seafolk Museum

The subject of the first of my Japan boat/model posts is a Sengokubune model (千石船模型) located upstairs in the Toba Seafolk Museum. Sengokubune, or 1000 koku ship, is a common term for the large coastal transports that were more formally referred to as bezaisen (弁才船).

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Douglas Brooks Building Cormorant Fishing Boat in Gifu

Boatbuilder, and my personal Japanese boatbuilding mentor, Douglas Brooks will soon be returning to Japan to begin working on the construction of an Ukaibune (鵜飼船), a cormorant fishing boat, in Gifu. In mid-May he will be working with Mr. Seichi Nasu, who may very well be the last builder of these famous Japanese boats.

The 85 year old Mr. Nasu has built over 700 boats of various types in his lifetime. But, unlike with Brooks’s past apprenticeships in Japan, Mr. Nasu will not be directly involved in the construction, and will instead direct, while Brooks provides the physical labor.

Ukaibune on the shore of the Nagara river. Image courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

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Wasen Models of the Ōta Ward Museum (大田区の博物館)

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五大力船 – Godairiki-sen. 1/10 scale. One of the models in storage at the Ota Ward Regional Museum. Photo courtesy of Ota Ward Folk Museum, and taken by The Rope Tokyo.

The Ota ward’s regional museum is a place I’d never heard of, and nobody told me about. I discovered it one day as I was digging through an old database file I stumbled across on the Nippon Foundation Library website. Not being able to read much Japanese, I downloaded an Excel spreadsheet and began translating piece of it to figure out what I had. What I found was a list of about 900 wasen models and their dispositions. Included in the list was their city location and address.

I recognized the kanji for Tokyo, 東京, so I focussed on those. I copied and pasted the address into Google Translate, and I got that the address was in the Ōta ward. Now, I’ve been to Tokyo a few times, but I’m not too familiar with the system of wards, which are subdivisions of cities. But, I had the address and popped it into Google Maps, which allowed me to locate it precisely, and even do a virtual walk around the area.

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Front of the Ota Ward Regional Museum as seen from Google Maps’ street view.

The walk around was a little  confusing, as the Japanese city zoning is very different from that in the U.S. The area looked pretty much like any other narrow semi-residential Tokyo street. I wasn’t sure if I was just mistaken about the whole thing. But, I did have a map of the location and saw that it was not all that far from the homes of a couple people that I met with on my recent visit to Japan, so I asked them about it and gave them a list of the models that the spreadsheet had indicated were there, or were once there. This began a whole project that I was not directly involved in.

The two gentlemen I contacted were Mr. Norio Uriu and Mr. Masama Sekiguchi, both members of The Rope, Japanese ship model society. Mr. Skiguchi is also a 14-year executive member of the Yokohama Sailing Model Club. I emailed them about the museum and the possible wasen model collection there, in the hopes that if they might know about it and help me find a way to get information about them.

A few days later, Mr. Uriu spoke with museum staff about my interest and found that the museum had a couple DVDs/CDs for sale about the old local boatbuilding industry, and also found that there were some 17 or 18 models in storage in their warehouse. He arranged for permission from the museum staff to allow them to make a special visit along with a third member of The Rope, Mr. Akamichi, to make a photographic record of the models there. I believe this has become an official informational CD of The Rope.

羽田水舟 - Haneda Mizubune, a boat used for carrying drinking water.

羽田水舟 – Haneda Mizubune, a boat used for carrying drinking water. Photo courtesy of Ota Ward Folk Museum, and taken by The Rope Tokyo.

As it turned out, there were 25 models in all and the group managed to take some 300 photos of them. Most of the boats were of types involved in seaweed harvesting, which was a big industry on Tokyo Bay up until about the 1970s when pollution and land expansion took its toll. It also took its toll on the traditional boat building industry which was a big part of the local community.

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Bow view of a Tsuribune, or fishing boat. It is described as a Nomeri-type. Photo courtesy of Ota Ward Folk Museum, and taken by The Rope Tokyo.

Mr. Uriu, in addition to providing me a copy of their CD, sent me the discs published by the museum as well, which consisted of a video, in Japanese, about boatbuilding in the Ota Ward as well as a pdf version of a book on the same subject that was published by the museum, but is no longer in print. I believe I wrote about this in a previous post.

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Boatbuilding book from the Ota Ward Regional Museum. Currently available only as a pdf file on CD at the museum.

I mentioned all of this to Douglas Brooks who was kind enough to provide me with a physical copy of the book as he had a few extra copies he’d been given over the years. Together with the photos, this was quite a boon.

多摩川の渡し船 - Tama River Watashi-bune, or river ferry.

多摩川の渡し船 – Tama River Watashi-bune, or river ferry. Photo courtesy of Ota Ward Folk Museum, and taken by The Rope Tokyo.

While going through all of this information, Mr. Sekiguchi paid a visit to the Urayasu Museum, which I managed to visit on my recent trip. I told him that I had wished to contact the curator there, whom I had met, and say hello and thank him again for making my museum visit so nice. I had emailed him months ago and had received no reply, which was distressing. So, Mr. Sekiguchi called him and passed along my regards. He also got permission for me to share information I received in a pamphlet published by the Urayasu Museum, which I will do when I get back to writing about building the Urayasu Bekabune model. Should be very soon! Ω

Looking at the Senzan-maru (千山丸), a Traditional Japanese Whaleboat

When I visited Japan in September, I found that I’d really hit the jackpot at the Toba Seafolk Museum. Not only are there numerous small boats on display, plus dioramas and a dozen or so models, but the gift shop is well stocked with books. I visited early in my trip, so I didn’t get as many books as I wanted to. Sadly, I didn’t see any of the books I was interested in at any other location I visited during the trip. One book I did pickup detailed a boat called the Senzan-maru, 千山丸.

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The Senzan-maru is the name given to a boat that was in the service of the Hachisuka clan. The boat was used to deliver messages and to help tow river barges, like the large decorative warship that served as the feudal lord’s yacht. The boat is a type called an Isanabune, a fast, seaworthy boat designed for whale hunting. Many whaleboats and fishing boats were decorated with painted designs on their hulls, but probably not to the same extent as Senzan-maru.

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The highly ornamental hull painting on the Senzanmaru

 

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The decorative bow of a Japanese fishing boat on display at the Toba Museum.

To my understanding, the boat was discovered in a storeroom at Tokushima Castle, and a careful study was done resulting in this book. I don’t know much about the boat, the type of boat, or the Hachisuka clan yet. And, while I have the book, it takes a long time for me to go through Japanese text.

The book includes plan drawings of the boat, and I hope to build a model at some point. I am still trying to understand the design of the boat’s interior and specific features. So, it will be some time before I am ready to build the model.

However, I discovered a very handy drawing in the book that lays out all the major hull components in one, unfolded piece. So, today, I decided to try piecing the hull together using this drawing like a paper model.

I began by photocopying the drawing and enlarging it to fill a sheet of regular office paper. Printed out, this was glued to a piece of heavy card stock, and I cut the model out carefully.

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I found that this folded fairly well into a one-piece model using Aileen’s Tacky Glue with blue painter’s tape to hold the the parts in place until the glue dried.

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It didn’t take long to fold into shape or for the glue to dry. The only thing now is to decide what I want to do with this. The model only consists of the planks and doesn’t include the many internal beams, rubrails, splash rails, mast step, rudder, or deck planking, etc.

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This looks a bit different from the actual Senzan-maru. So, perhaps it’s not what I think it is. It actually reminds of the small fast boats described by Commodore Perry’s expedition.

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I don’t know what more I will do to this small paper model, if anything. It was just something I’ve been kind of itching to put together ever since I saw the drawing in the book, and will serve to help me better understand the design of this boat type and wasen in general. Now that it’s pieced together, I’m considering enlarging the drawing to a proper scale and cutting planks from wood.

However, there are plenty of projects in the works, including a 1:10 scale model of an Urayasu Bekabune, which I also worked on this week. But, more on that later. Ω