Kitamaebune – Another Kit from Woody Joe

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.

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Tosa Wasen – Japanese Fishing Boat Kit – A First Look

With the Thanksgiving holiday last week, I’d been home a lot except for one day, Friday. Naturally, that’s the day the postal carrier showed up with the package from Japan. With nobody home to sign for it, I had to wait the extra day to pick up the kit. Fortunately, the Post Offices are still open on Saturdays, so in short order, I had the package.

The kit is not all that heavy, about 1-1/2 pounds, but it’s in a long box. I think this kicked the shipping cost up a bit, which was just about $30. Still, a ship model kit, particularly one this rare, for around $170 total, is not bad. That’s just about what I paid for the Woody Joe Hacchoro and the Yakatabune kits I bought from Zootoyz.

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Having ordered through Amazon Japan, the only seller of the kit did not ship internationally, so I had it sent to someone that then re-shipped it for me from Japan and they didn’t charge me any service fees. He’s done this twice for me and I don’t want to impose on him any further. There are companies specifically set up to forward packages from Japan. I just finished setting up an account with one called Tenso.com. Next time, I’ll try them out.

By the way, it looks like I may have been wrong about this kit being out of production. I thought it was no longer manufactured because the company that makes it, Thermal Studios, primarily makes large model glider kits and doesn’t list the Tosa Wasen kit at all. However, I emailed them about it and if we understood each other correctly, they produce the kit. Perhaps it’s more of a local item since they are apparently close to Tosa, Japan, and seem to have some kind of connection with the Tosa Traditional Boat Society.

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The kit itself is basically made up entirely of several laser cut sheets, plus a small bag with various kinds of parts, some other separate laser cut and milled wooden parts, instruction booklet, plan sheet, and even a sanding block.

 

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The laser cut sheets are made from Sugi (that’s “Sue” plus “Gee” with a hard “G”) or Japanese cedar, just like the real Tosa boats. Sugi is aromatic, though not as strong as the Hinoki used in so many Woody Joe kits. The parts are laser etched with Japanese characters to identify them. This probably makes locating parts a little more time consuming than if they were numbered. But, it’s just a matter of pattern matching.

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The bag of parts contains all the milled wood parts, all short pieces. Also in the parts bag is the metal anchor, the anchor rope, metal rings and fastener. The kit also includes a roll of yellow hobby masking tape, and for some reason, some plastic applicator tips used for applying CA glue.

 

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As expected, the instruction booklet is all in Japanese. The black and white printed book is 26 pages long and includes a parts diagram on the back cover, showing all the laser cut parts on their sheets. The diagram is pretty small and you really need a magnifying glass to read it. But, magnified, the part identifiers all appear to be readable. Instructions are divided up into 41 steps, with each step being clearly illustrated and each looking to be pretty simple steps.

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Time will tell if the Japanese text printed in the booklet is really necessary or if the model can be built solely by the drawings. But, in addition to the booklet, there is also on large plan sheet that gives a nice overview of the boat at full scale, which, by the way, is 1/10 scale.

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Overall, this looks like a really nice kit and it’s not that expensive. An additional bonus is that the  manufacturer, Thermal Studios, created a blog showing photos of the construction steps. This is really nice because it reinforces the written/printed instructions, giving you another view of the steps. Also, using Bing or Google translators, you can view the blog pages in English (or whatever your native language). This isn’t great as the translation can be pretty questionable, but it often helps.

Thermal Studio’s Building a Wasen Blog

Having attended Douglas Brooks‘ talk at the NRG conference this past October, and having been reading through his book on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, I can say that this kit looks very authentic and true to the way that the traditional Japanese shipwrights would have actually constructed their boats.

This kit would make an ideal study project for someone who is interested in following the work described in Mr. Brooks’ book. Personally, I’ve been planning on scratch building the Urayasu Bekabune that he discusses in his book. I think that building this kit first will help me a long ways towards understanding Japanese boatbuilding so that I can next attempt that scratch project.

 

Initial Thoughts on Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen

Recently, my kit review of Woody Joe’s Kanrin Maru kit was published in Seaways’ Ships in Scale and I’ve since begun looking at Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen kit. I’ll develop a complete review pretty soon, but I have had a chance to work on the model a bit and I do have some initial thoughts on the Higaki Kaisen kit.

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My first impression is that it’s a fascinating looking build of a traditional Japanese ship. There are a lot of laser cut parts and it’s missing the traditional framework we’re used to seeing in ship model kits, but there is a small set of frames that make up temporary building molds that helps hold the hull parts in place during construction.

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Building this model is very different than building a traditional ship model. In some ways, it’s a little bit like building a plastic kit in that there are so many pre-fabricated parts. But, the ship’s design is so different from Western ships that it seems like a lot of engineering had to be done to create the kit. This makes it a fun build, but it also means that parts have to be placed very specifically (unlike with most plastic kits which provide alignment pins), and if one part is not aligned properly, it will affect the fitting of other parts later, so it requires a lot of patience and care. This is not a kit that can be rushed.

Looking at the manual in the kit, you can tell right away that this is an involved build – it’s 32 pages long and packed with illustrations. There are so many illustrations that you almost don’t need to know any Japanese to build it. Almost.

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The Higaki Kaisen is not like the western style ship Kanrin Maru. A ship modeler who builds the Kanrin Maru pretty much recognized the parts in that kit and has a general idea where things are going to go. If the part is not familiar, the placement in the illustrations are usually enough to clarify things. But, the average ship modeler looking at a part on the traditional Japanese style ship Higaki Kaisen is more likely to have no clue as to what the part is for or how it’s supposed to fit. The illustrations in the instructions help, but there are many places where the builder is told, in Japanese, not to glue certain parts into place. And, if you have no way of reading that text, it’s going to be a problem.

As I see it, the best way to deal with this is to either know someone who can read some Japanese for you, or to look for an English language guide to the kit. So far, I’m not aware of one, so if no one else does it, I may try to put something together. We’ll see.

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Even if you can follow all of the instructions, the unusual design of the Higaki Kaisen and the engineering that went into it sometimes requires steps that aren’t all that apparent. For instance, in one step, several beams are added and all of them glued into place except one, which must remain loose until a later time. Also alignment of parts is very critical, so you want to make sure you are extremely careful and look well ahead in the instructions to see what is going to happen later with the part you’re working on. It may actually make sense to jump ahead and fashion some sub-assemblies that are installed later, to make sure that the will fit properly with the parts you’re currently putting into place.

All that said, this is an incredibly interesting model to work on. It’s a lot less predictable than other ship model kits since the vessel is so different. I know my own build won’t be perfect, but with care any mistakes will be fixable, or at least they will be hideable, and its completion is going to be a fun and interesting journey. Ω