Problems with website Funenokagakukan.or.jp

Anyone trying to access the website for the Tokyo Museum of Maritime Science may find that attempts to connect to the site result in a message that the server is not responding.

The URL: http://funenokagakukan.or.jp

I ran into this connection problem several days ago and checked with a friend in Japan, who reported no issues connecting to the site. I have since retested my own network and computers and have checked with people across the U.S. and in Europe to determine that all are experiencing a connection problem. So, the issue seems to be widespread, at least outside of Japan. I’m checking to verify the problem does not occur within Japan, though I tried a VPN connection through a server in Tokyo and still had the problem.

Today, I sent an email to an address I found for the site’s webmaster. I don’t know how effective that will be, but Douglas Brooks was also reported that he is unable to connect and said that he knows who to contact about it. So, hopefully, this will get resolved soon.

But, this means that for the time being, my links in certain posts, such as about downloading the pdf copy of the Funakagami, will not work. I expect this is a temporary issue, so I won’t be changing any of my posts or links for now.

Check back here for updates.

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Kujirabune (鯨船) – Japanese Whaleboat Plans Arrived!

Yesterday, I received an email from Mr. Hayato Sakurai, who is the curator of the whaling museum in Taiji, Japan. Interestingly, Mr. Sakurai also lists himself as Advisory Curator for the New Bedford Whaling Museum, which I didn’t know, though it only makes sense.

Scene from a 150 year old screen painting of whaling along the Kumano Coast, Kishu region

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Computer Translation of Japanese Text, Part 1 – Translation from the Internet

Recently, I wrote a blog post about Researching Wasen Remotely, but it was mostly a follow up about the general difficulty of sorting through research information that’s primarily in Japanese and gathered from wide ranging sources. But I’m thinking it might be helpful to go over some of the resources and tools I use in research. This could be pretty involved, so I may need to do this in a few parts.

The most obvious sources of information are going to be books, drawings, photos, web pages, etc. Drawings and photos aren’t language dependent, but books, websites and any text in the drawings and photos, are going to be written in Japanese. If you don’t read Japanese, that’s a big problem, but there are tools that can help.

While I was born in Japan, am half Japanese, and know a small amount of spoken Japanese, my own knowledge of the written language is limited. Here’s how I overcome this limitation.

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Making Progress on Kujirabune (鯨船) Research

I recently had some very good new regarding my research of Japanese whaleboats, or Kujirabune. After finding the Taiji museum website and seeing a post of some whaleboats from Muroto, which is in Kōchi prefecture on the south eastern corner of Shikoku, I had mentioned these things to my ship modeling friend in Japan, Mr. Masami Sekiguchi, and also to Douglas Brooks. As it turned out, Douglas Brooks knew the curator of the Taiji museum and put me in touch with him.

Shortly after, my friend Sekiguchi-san had called the museum and spoke with the curator, Mr. Hayato Sakurai. It was nice to hear from Sekiguchi-san that the website I told him about, http://taiji.town, and the many colorful illustrations of whaleboats was something he wasn’t aware of, and he really appreciated my finding them. I think he enjoyed his conversation with the curator, and as it turned out, the Taiji museum building was designed by a friend of his, who has since passed away. So, I was happy to be able help him make some connections too.

Modern fiberglass-hulled kujirabune replicas racing.

 

Mr. Sekiguchi sent me this photo he took a couple years ago of some toy kujirabune.

 

So, now I have been in touch with Mr. Sakurai, who has agreed to send me a copy of the museum’s exhibition catalog, as well as a copy of a technical drawing of one of the types of boats used by the old whalers, specifically, a Sekobune, which was a chaser-type boat, and the sleekest looking of the whaleboats used. There were apparently several types of boats used in whaling, but I don’t yet know enough to be able to identify any of them except for the sekobune and the amibune, which was a net-carrying boat.

It’ll probably be a bit before the items arrive from Taiji, as Mr. Sakurai was actually just about to head to Muroto, when we exchanged emails last week. But, good fortune is still at hand, as Douglas Brooks sent me his copy of the Muroto museum’s exhibit book, and also went and made of copy of a whaleboat drawing he obtained when he was in Muroto and sent them to me. We’ll see when the items that Mr. Sakurai me arrive, but I suspect that the drawings will be the same.

Muroto kujirabune replica. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

 

 

Painted Patterns on Kujirabune (Whale boats)

Kujirabune, also know as Isanabune, were fast boats designed for hunting whales. These boats often had brightly painted sides, decorated with symbols, crests, chrysanthemums, and other themes.

One such boat that I’ve mentioned specifically here is the Senzanmaru, a boat used by the  Hachizuka to deliver dispatches and to tow large gozabune, highly decorated yachts used by the clan.

Senzan-maru, a whale boat used by the Hachitsuka clan.

Today, I was admiring a Facebook post by a gentleman I’ve recently been in contact with who has an interest in wasen and took some photos of a group of whaleboats that were on shore in Kumano city, on the Southeastern tip of Shikoku island. I looked up the city on the Internet and one thing led to another. Next thing I know, I ran across an english language web page for the town of Taiji, which illustrates a large number of whaleboats of different types and their colorful painted hull patterns.

Chaser Boat No. 6, an 8-oared boat with a crew of 15. From the Taijiri town website.

There are more than 40 boats and patterns viewable on the web page: http://taiji.town/kujirabune/

But, the whole website is actually very interesting and informative. It appears that it was purposely designed to be a politically neutral, informative site on Taiji an its history in Japanese and English. Visit http://taiji.town

One thing I’m intrigued about is from the whale boats page when you click the About button. There is a detailed plan on the page. It’s too small to use, but I will be asking some friends if they can find out if these plans might be available from the museum. If so, you’re sure to hear about it here.

The Rope: Article on the Funakagami and Historical Japanese Boats

Continuing with a string of posts about the Japanese ship model society, The Rope, here’s a short, but very interesting article describing a talk given by the curatorial director of the Tokyo Museum of Maritime Science. In this talk, Mr. Iinuma describes Japanese historical boats and the role of the book, Funakagami. I posted about this earlier in the year, along with a link to a downloadable pdf copy of the book. This article in The Rope News is a better discussion of the book that mine, and it’s a very short summary.

 

Cover of the Funakagami

I read this and, learned a few key things that I didn’t know about. One in particular was why the stem (the term bowsprit is mistakenly used here) on many yakatabune shown in wood block prints, look incomplete. I’ll let you read that answer for yourself. You can read the article online or download a copy:

https://theropetokyo-en.jimdo.com/japanese-ships-1/archive-of-documents/

And, here is a link to my own blog post on the Funakagami where you can download a copy directly from the Tokyo Museum of Maritime Science: https://wasenmodeler.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/funakagami-a-pdf-book-on-japanese-boat-types-2/

 

Building the Kamakura Period Umi-Bune, Part 6

As I mentioned in my last post on this model, I’d been wrestling with the configuration of the roofs. The 1/20-scale museum model that I often see reference on the web, differs from Professor Ishii’s 3-view illustration that I’ve mostly been basing construction on. Those drawings are more of a match to the early scroll paintings. Oddly enough, none of the models I’ve seen match them exactly. Is it possible that the builders had access to more updated information? Or did they just decide that the Ishii-san was wrong? But, then what about the scroll paintings? Are they simply written off as being wrong?

As you can see in the photo below, which was taken at a ship model club meeting, I initially made flat roofs panels. If I could justify them, they would certainly be the simplest to construct.

Flat roof panel initially constructed is seen in foreground.

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On Amazon – Illustrated History of Japanese Traditional Boats by Kenji Ishii

I had to post this, because it is a very rare find. This book, written by Professor Kenji Ishii, was published in 1983 and is pretty much the bible of historical Japanese watercraft.

Illustrated History of Japanese Traditional Boats

This is the primary source for my own research on the subject of wasen, or traditional Japanese boats. I bought my copy used from Japan and it cost me around $170 with shipping. It was definitely worth the investment, as this information is extremely hard to  find anywhere else, especially outside of Japan.

Well, today, I was updating my post on my Kamakura period large sea boat project and I thought I see if I could find a link to this book on Amazon.com. I did and lo-and-behold, there’s an actual copy available in the U.S. for about $100!

https://www.amazon.com/Wasen-Shiwa-History-Japanese-Ships/dp/B00IOZFMPG/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1502065748&sr=8-9&keywords=kenji+ishii

I had to pass this along to readers here – this is a steal! I’m surprised to even see it listed here, because it’s written entirely in Japanese, so I wouldn’t expect copies to be turning up in the U.S. again, except in very rare cases. In fact, I don’t even see it listed on Amazon Japan at the moment.

Buy it before it’s gone. Seriously.

Can a Kobaya be Built from Paris Plans?

Kobaya is a term for a type of smaller military style vessel that is fast and maneuverable. Highly ornate versions of these and larger military vessels called Sekibune were used by Daimyo and their clans for ceremonial and other official purposes. I don’t know about the smaller ones, but the larger ones were called Gozabune.

 

Photo of a 30-oar Kobaya, of small fast-boat, from a display of models built by Yukio Nakayama. Photo is courtesy of The Rope.

Ship modelers building American or European subjects are accustomed to finding detailed drawingsfor the more popular of these vessels. There are even large numbers of plans made specifically for ship modelers. But, unlike with western subjects, there is a dearth of plans of Japanese watercraft. I’ve found plenty of sketches and there are basic line drawings that might be used, but these commonly don’t have the information needed to build a proper model.

One reason for this is that Japanese boatbuilders don’t have a tradition of recording their work, and they generally only make temporary drawings on wood, sometimes destroying them when done.

Japanese boatbuilder’s plank drawings. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

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