9th Japanese Boat Models Display, October 2019

I just finished setting up Japanese wasen model display 9.0 yesterday. I was a bit late setting it up, which I had planned to set up 3 days earlier, but it was difficult for me to arrange my time this week for various reasons. But, it’s up now in the display window of the Union Bank community room inside the Japan Center’s East Mall in San Francisco.

Due to the sale of my Higaki Kaisen model, and to keep things manageable, I ended up scaling back to 6 models, plus a panel of photos. This fills up the display window just fine and allows me to set up more easily.

In fact, I have traditionally set aside 2 hours to handle the setup, but I must have become more efficient at it, as it only took me an hour to get the key from the bank, carry everything from my car, and set up the display.

The display includes:

  • 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
  • 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.

Noticeably missing, at least to me, is a model of a bezaisen, or Japanese coastal transport, as I sold my Higaki Kaisen model last month and haven’t completed the Kitamaebune model yet.

The Kitamaebune will be ready for the next display, I’m sure. And, I do have another Higaki Kaisen kit. So, by that time, mabye I’ll have the second Higaki Kaisen model ready too.

One thing different about this display is that while I was setting up the display window, a cat wandered through the East Mall and sat out in front by the bunraku puppet display. While the cat didn’t specifically come and look at the display, I like to think that he or she brought by some good luck to the display.

The display will run through at least the end of October. Given that I was several days behind schedule on the setup, perhaps I’ll leave it up a little longer if the window space is available. Ω

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Building a Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船) – Part 4

Uwakoberi, Koberi, and Iron Nails

So, with the koberi in place, I added the small deck at the bow and the ōtoko at the stern. I’m trying to find out the term for these small decks, which are more like steps. On the Hozugawa boats, the small deck at the bow is called omote-amaose. But, that’s an entirely different region, so I expect the term in Tokyo/Edo would be something quite different.

I also added the uwakoberi, which is what in the west, one would refer to as the gunwale or caprail. Each was made from a single piece of wood, wide enough to cover the edges of the hull planking and rub rail. I made mine a little wider, so that there is a slight overhang on the inboard side.

On tenmasen, the uwakoberi could be quite wide, serving as a walkway for the boatmen. I wanted to keep true to the Funakagami print, so I didn’t go too wide on this. Also, I had a hard enough time putting a bend in the wood. Any wider would have just made this task more difficult.

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Building a Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船) – Part 3

Construction of the model continues as I’ve been working out how I want to tackle some of the details on this 1/20-scale model. The major issues to deal with are the copper mortise covers and other copper detailing as well as the detailing of iron nails used to fasten the koberi, or rub rail, plus wire nails used to fasten the uwakoberi, or the caprails. Some of this is quite simple.

Below, I’ve posted a photo of Japanese modeler Kouichi Ohata’s Tenma-zukuri chabune. He has been helpful in the adjusting of the design of the drawings and has completed a model based on the drawings.

His model is built at 1/10 scale. I may eventually build one at this scale, but for now, I’m happy building mine in 1/20 scale, and I’m considering building other wasen of the Funakagami in 1/20 scale also. It saves on space!

Photo of Japanese modeler Kouichi Ohata’s 1/10-scale Tenma-zukuri chabune based on my plans, with a few modifications and added details.

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Japanese Boats Theme at the 2019 Wooden Boat Festival

I’ve stepped in it this time… Having agreed to participate in this year’s Wooden Boat Festival with a display of Japanese boat models, I just learned today that they are making this year’s theme “Japanese Boat Building”, specifically mentioning, among other things, Japanese Boat Models.

This morning, I received an email from Douglas Brooks, who encouraged me to participate. He sent me a link to the following blog post that was recently published by the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, Washington.

Japanese Boat Building theme at 2019 Wooden Boat Festival

So, it looks like I’m in it as I’ll be the only builder of Japanese boat models there. I think I need to learn to be more confident about my knowledge of both the models and of Japanese boat building and to realize that I have a certain, if limited, expertise on the subject.

I’ll be bringing several of my models to the show, but will try to focus on my scratch projects. I do have my Hozugawabune, Bekabune, Kamakura period trade boat, and a mostly finished Kobaya. Also, I should have a completed Tenma-zukuri chabune and a miniature Hozugawa kudari bune, or river tour boat, that I recently started, but more on that later.

I’ll have a table set up for the models, but will also be demonstrating my Japanese boat building techniques at various times throughout the festival. That should give me two full months in which to refine my techniques!

Douglas is also trying to get me to sing a song at their boat launching ceremony that takes place on the last day of the event. I think he’s determined to make it happen. I also think I’m going to be urged to bring a shamisen too (3-stringed fretless lute played with a plectrum), and to play some music some time during the 3-day event, though I’m not really much of a soloist.

I would try to just stick to displaying my models, but he has gone out of his way to get me involved in the event and the event organizers have even arranged for a place for me to stay, so I think I’d better do what I can. And, who knows, maybe I’ll be “discovered” as a new Japanese music talent. Ω

Building a Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船) – Part 2

In my last post, I discussed the building of a tenma-zukuri chabune from the Funakagami, and I stated that I was working on my model, but didn’t actually talk about building the model. The fact is that I wasn’t sure about what scale to build it at, given that a 1/10-scale model would end up being a little over two feet long, and I’m running low on space to display or store my models. So, I started a 1/20-scale model to see how I’d feel about the smaller scale.

I began by making a temporary internal frame. This would allow me to build the shiki, or bottom, and add the miyoshi, or stem, and the todate, or transom, at the proper angles. The same goes for the tana, or hull planks.

The longitudinal member of the framework is shaped directly from a copy of my plan drawing. The cross pieces are located at positions of the funabari, or beams, and are shaped according to my drawings.

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Hozu River Diorama

Something I’ve been working on over the past many months, somewhat off and on, is a mini diorama. I think I was inspired by Woody Joe’s release of the first of their 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō series, the Nihonbashi Bridge. That model depicts the famous Edo period bridge that was the eastern end of the Tōkaidō and Nakasendō roads that connected Edo to Kyōto, and is made to be a diorama with a pair of flowering cherry trees and a pair of small boats on the river.

Seeing this, I thought about the Japanese river boats I was familiar with. Having completed a boat from the Hozu river, its simple designed seemed a natural choice for a small diorama. The idea was also fed by the numerous available pictures of the large sightseeing boats that take tourists down the scenic river route.

Never having made a diorama of any type, I did my research and planning, did several experiments with materials and paints, and came up with what I thought was fairly decent for a first effort.

The diorama depicts a pair of Edo period boatmen traveling through a portion of the rapids on the Hozu river on a 24-foot riverboat, sometimes called an Ayubune, named for a popular kind of fish that they would catch from these boats.

The initial challenge was getting the water to look right. The rocks turned out to be very easy to make using inexpensive sheets of insulating foam. The stoney texture was simple the result of cutting the foam with a knife.

The making of the boat was the easiest part of the whole display. I just scaled down the drawings I had and cut the parts and put it together. It’s a very simple boat design. And, at this scale, the details of a larger model would not really be visible, so I was able to omit them.

The two figures turned out to be the greatest challenge. I’ve fashioned individual figures before, but it’s not a skill I possess yet. Right now, it takes a lot of work for me to get something that passes as humanoid. Then, to try to make it look like they’re wearing Japanese traditional garb took another step. Painting helped make this work, and I’ve done a lot of miniature painting in my younger days, so that I think made a big difference.

The diorama isn’t perfect. For one thing, the type of tree seen here is, I believe, all wrong. Most trees on the river banks are smaller and straighter, but I just used whatever I could find that would work, settling on the myriad of tree making kits available to the model railroad hobbyist.

The water was also problematic as the stuff I used for making the choppy waves, again a product made for model railroad enthusiasts, results in a horrific amount of shrinkage. The diorama is okay for now, but I can’t help but wonder what it will look like in another five years.

It’s nice to have this display done, and I’d like to do a more serene “cherry blossom viewing on the river” diorama in the future. For this, I purchased some trees made by Woody Joe, which should look more correct. However, I’d love to work on the skill of making model trees from scratch. But, another time, maybe. Ω

Rice Glue?

Someone on the ship modeler’s forum Model Ship World recently posted a link to an article about making rice glue. This is an interesting idea as it is completely natural and reversible, plus it is apparently ph balanced as well, meaning that it won’t chemically attack the glued materials over time.

http://islandblacksmith.ca/2015/10/making-sokui-rice-paste-glue/

I don’t have any plans to switch to it instead of the off-the-shelf commercially available glues, but it does get me to thinking about building something with it. What could be more Japanese than a wasen model built with Japanese woods held together with rice glue?

Building a Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船) – Part 1

I completed what I believe is a good final draft of the Tenma-zukuri Chabune from the Funakagami, and I’m now working on my model. However, it appears that I am already late to my own game. Model builder Kouichi Ohata has already completed his model in 1/10 scale, and he’s done a beautiful job with the boat as well as with all the added details!

Kouichi Ohata’s model

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. Continue reading

8th Japanese Boat Models Display, February 2019

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.

Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船)- Plans Reconstruction Update

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.

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