Atakebune Kit Now Available

Woody Joe has officially announced the release of their new Atakebune kit. This kit is based on the model at the Saga Prefectural Nagoya Castle Museum, which is located near Fukuoka, Japan. That model represents a large Atakebune, which was the largest class of warship used by the Japanese armies during their warring states period.

The 1/100-scale kit sells for ¥38,000, which at the current exchange is about $335. Woody Joe will begin shipping the kits to resellers this coming Sunday, October 31st, but you can place your order now.

Japanse online hobby deal Zootoyz has the kit listed here: https://www.japan-wooden-model-kits-zootoyz.shop/contents/en-us/p25066.html

From the kit photos, the model looks a little on the simple side, but that just leaves room for some good detailing. As posted before, the dimensions of the kit are: Length 490mm Width 230mm Height 310mm (overall, including oars and stand).

I have two kits on order, which will hopefully arrive within a couple weeks. I’ll post a brief out of the box review when I get them. Ω

A Day of Display at the SF Asian Art Museum

Sunday, October 17th, was my first display at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum and it went pretty well. It was a bit stressful getting everything together in time, but once I had all the models displayed and was talking to people about them, it was pretty relaxing. The event was just a one day showing, and there were many other things taking place as part of the event.

I had 10 of my completed models on display, and I decided to bring several models that I had in early stages of construction, so I could show how I build them. Information cards provided visitors with the basic information about the model and what it represented. There was a lot of information I had to leave out in order to fit the text onto those large index cards.

Behind the models, I displayed what artwork I could find that showed the specific boat types in Japanese prints and paintings.

Four of the models were built from kits, including Woody Joe’s Hacchoro, Yakatabune, and Kitamaebune, as well as Thermal Studio’s Tosa Wasen. That’s probably the weakness of this specific display, as I think most people would like to see models that I built from scratch, and most of those that I have are smaller boats, whose detailed construction I’ve been studying.

The bigger models attract the most attention, and they are kit builds. For my Japantown bank window displays, I mostly use the kits. For displays at the Asian Art Museum, it would have been nice to focus on the scratch builds. It’s something I’ll work on in the future. It means not only scratch building more models, but models of larger boat types, and ideally, models with sails, as they attract the most attention.

I had several in-progress projects on hand to illustrate how the models are built. This drew some interest too, though I didn’t have much time to actually demo the construction of the models in the morning, as that’s when I had the most people coming, asking questions about the models.

The best part is probably that it got the interest of many kids. There was one in particular, who was half Japanese with a Japanese mother and an American born father. He was maybe 8 and spent a lot of time hanging out with his dad and he was the most interested. So, I showed him everything I could that he seemed the most interested in. He had lots of questions and his dad was very encouraging. His mother came by too. She was originally from Ibaraki prefecture, around Lake Kasumigaura, which is well known for a type of side-trawling fishing boat called a Hobikisen.

The display was pretty well received, but it would be a lot easier to set it up somewhere, and leave it for a period time, like when I have my Japantown displays in the Union Bank window. They still won’t allow that due to Covid restrictions. Makes absolutely no sense to me, and I think the bank management is just being lazy about it. Japantown needs more things of interest and putting these in their community room window isn’t likely to increase the spread Covid.

I talked to a few visitors who had some ideas about displaying them again in Japantown, so well see what I can do again. In the meantime, I have some other display possibilities I will look into for maybe early 2022. Ω

Utasebune 打瀬船 Fishing Boat – 1/72 Scale Model from Paris Drawings – Part 1

The Souvenirs de Marine is a multi-volume collection of drawings that are the basis for many of the models in the French National Maritime Museum. The book was put together by Edmond Pâris and originally published in the 1880s. Among the collection of drawings of watercraft from around the world are several Japanese boats that were recorded by French Lieutenant Armand Paris, mostly in the areas of Osaka and Edo in the 1860s.

These drawings provide the only detailed records of some of the watercraft depicted. These include large coastal transports, fishing boats, pleasure boats, a large yacht owned by one of the many feudal lords, a row galley in the service of the Shogun, etc.

Now, I’ve built a model of the row galley, which is referred to in Japanese as a Kobaya, though there are some features that I feel that the drawing is missing, as the ship was out of service for some time and in disprepair, following the fall of the Shogun’s government many years earlier. So, that model remains technically unfinished.

However, there is an intriguing looking fishing boat that’s detailed in the available drawings. The boat is only described as a fishing boat, but it is quite large at 17 meters long, a little over 55 feet. But, what stands out the most is the unusual downward turn of the bow. This is the first time I’d seen this kind of feature. But, it turns out that it wouldn’t be the last time.

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Marukobune in Film Clip of Ishimatsu Sanjugokubune (石松三十石舟)

As a wasen modeler, how awesome is it to be able to see film footage that actually shows a Lake Biwa Marukobune (丸子船) under sail? Recently, someone posted a Youtube link on Facebook to a clip from an old Japanese movie. At the start of the clip, you can see a Marukobune setting out.These boats were used for carrying cargo and passengers on Japan’s Lake Biwa.

Late period Marukobune on display at the Lake Biwa Museum.

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Wasen Model in Monterey, CA – Follow-up

This week, I made the trip down to Monterey’s JACL Heritage Hall & Museum and met with curator Tim Thomas. He was waiting for me in front of the building when I arrived, and I was ushered into the museum room, where there were all sorts of displays of artifacts from the Japanese American community’s thriving past in Monterey.

The museum is small as it’s just the one room. But, the museum and the Heritage Hall apparently have their connections and access to a lot of knowledge about the Japanese American community, which was really thriving in Monterey before WWII. The curator has even given talks in Japan about the Japanese in Monterey.

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Wasen Model in Monterey, CA

Earlier this Summer, I was in contact with a gentleman who is a former Historian/Curator for the old Monterey Maritime Museum. Apparently, part of that collection included some Chinese junk models as well as some Japanese wasen models. He didn’t have much information on the Japanese models, but commented that all the models were built back in the 1920s.

While the collection of Junk models has apparently been moved to the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, one Japanese boat model now resides at the Monterey JACL (Japanese American Citizens League) Heritage Center & Museum, where he now works as the Curator.

Wasen Model at the Monterey JACL Heritage Center / Museum

There is very little information on the model, except that it, along with the Junk models, is part of the Greatwood Collection. These were models commissioned by American oil company executive Royce Greatwood, working in the Far East in the 1920s. I’m sure there’s more to the story, but that’s all I know.

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Wasen Model Table at the SF Asian Art Museum, October 17th

Sunday, October 17th, 2021, is Japan Day at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum. A friend of mine is working with the museum on this and asked me to participate by displaying my wasen models. So, I will be setting up a table to display some models and, hopefully, have some room to do a little work on them – something like I did at the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Towsend a couple years ago.

Me, at the 3-day Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival.

I’m hoping to have enough room to set up a few models in a nice, formal display with accompanying information. Since it’s at the Asian Art Museum, I’ll probably try to chose models that I can tie to artwork as much as possible. In general, I expect to make this a bit of a cross between the Port Towsend event above, and the Japantown display below.

One several (seven?) wasen model displays I’ve had at the Japan Center’s East Mall in San Franciso.

By the way, I haven’t been able to set up the Japantown display in over a year due to Covid related bank policies. Wouldn’t have gotten much in the way of visitors anyway. However, with this October event, and with so much having reopened, I’m reaching out to Union Bank, who operates this community room and its display window.

I’m hoping I can have something set up there maybe in September, leading up to the Japan Day event. We’ll see what I find out when I hear back from the bank contact. Of course, I’ll keep you posted.

As for the Asian Art Museum, my Japanese Boats Display is supposed to be set up from approximately 11am to 5pm on Sunday, October 17th, on the first floor of the museum. I won’t be alone there. Two other ‘stations’ are scheduled to be set up there as well, including a Origami Irises display and a Toro Nagashi Paper Lanterns display (floating lanterns).

Make sure to mark your calendars, so you can stop by and visit me if you’re in the area!

Ω

Tenma-Zukuri Chabune Display at the Nakagawa Bansho Museum (中川船番所博物館)

I ran across some images from a Japanese museum in Tokyo’s Koto ward in early May, and I feel like some of my work has been completely validated. This little museum is called the Nakagawa Funabansho Museum (中川船番所博物館), and I know absolutely nothing about this museum. I don’t even know if I’ve heard about it before, though I recognize the Nakagawa, or Naka river, or middle river in Japanese, which flows down from Saitama prefecture through Tōkyō.

A large display in the museum is a full-sized diorama of a small, fully loaded canal boat that looks like it’s pulling away from the dock. What surprised me was that I recognized this specific type of boat as one that I studied and created a set of drawings.

This is a tenma-zukuri chabune, a small general purpose boat from the canals of old Edo. I’ve seen very little about this boat, outside of a woodblock print in the Funakagami, an illustrated identification guide to river boats that was used to aid the government’s tax assessors.

Page from the Funakagami, with my annotations on the names of parts.

Using this illustration, plus some information provided in the book, I came up with a set of drawings that I created in Adobe Illustrator.

My own drawings based on the Funakagami illustration and provided dimensions.

There are some variations from the museum display, but all the details mostly seem to match. I will consider some modifications that I might make to the drawings, but I’m very confident with them, especially now that I’ve seen this museum display.

The drawings have been used to make at least two models: My 1/20-scale model and one by Japanese modeler Kouichi Ohata, who built a beautiful 1/10-scale model. Kouichi-san’s model actually came before mine, and he provided some great feedback that helped me improve the drawings from their original version.

My 1/20-scale tenma-zukuri chabune

1/10-scale tenma-zukuri chabune by Kouichi Ohata

This is the first time I’ve researched a particular boat type and created a set of drawings based mostly on the interpretation of a woodblock print. While I knew I had the basic dimensions right, I never really new for sure if my interpretation of all the details was correct.

Seeing this museum display is not proof that I got everyhing correct, but at least it shows me that whoever was involved with the creation of this museum display agrees with my interpretation of this boat. That means a lot to me, given how separated and independent my study of wasen has to be.

So, I look forward to visiting this display at some point after Covid concerns have lightened up. In the meantime, perhaps I should pick another subject to try to illustrate and model. Ω

The Making of a Man (in 1/20 Scale)

Time to start adding figures to my collection of wasen models…

Ship Modeler

Working with my Japanese boat models, after the tenth or twelfth model, I’ve felt that there’s now something missing. I enjoy modeling traditional Japanese boats, but up to now, there hasn’t been much context. So, I started experimenting with making cargo, which is a relatively easy, if not somewhat tedious, task. But, I’ve always felt that the cargo was just one step towards giving the models a better sense of what they were and how they were used. What the boats really needed were one or more figures, to give them a sense sense of scale, and a sense of the place and time when they were in their heyday.

Kawasaki: The Rokugō Ferry, from Hiroshige’s Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō

Mitsuke: The Tenryū River, from Hiroshige’s Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō

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Atakebune – Japanese Warship Kit in Development

At last, it’s happening. After some enthusiastic petitioning by Kazunori Morikawa, myself, and others to the Japanese wooden model kit maker Woody Joe, it appears the company is actively developing the prototype for an Atakebune.

Museum model of an atakebune

For those who don’t already know, the Atakebune is the largest class of warship used by the Japanese feudal armies of the warring states period. These lumbering ships were effectively floating fortresses. While they were equipped with one large mast and square sail, as well as a  single bank of oars, they were often towed by smaller warships.

Museum model of a large atakebune

I’ve had a number of people ask me about the availability of an Atakebune kit. Up to now, there hasn’t been much  available in the form of a well researched scale model kit. But, yesterday, Woody Joe posted a photo on their Facebook page, announcing that they’ve started working on a prototype model.

The new model is 1/100 scale, and it’s only a prototype, so we won’t know if it’s going to go into production yet. I’m a bit disappointed that the model is not 1/72 scale, as that scale would then match Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen and Kitamaebune kits, plus it would then be compatible with 1/72 samurai figures that are currently available.

However, a 1/72 scale model would almost 40% larger than a 1/100 scale model. And, considering these were large ships, that would be a big kit that might be harder for company to manufacture. Also, such a large model may be less appealing in Japan, which is their primary market.

I don’t know any more details yet, but will post them as soon as I learn more. Ω