Urayasu no Bekabune (浦安のべか舟)

The bekabune, sometimes referred to simply as a beka, is a small, one person, flat-bottomed boat used for gathering seaweed. In the city of Urayasu, which was once on Tokyo Bay until landfill projects left it far from shore, there were two types of bekabune used. A smaller one, sometimes called a noribeka, that was used strictly for gathering seaweed, and a slightly large oner which was also used for catching shellfish. Large numbers of these boats operated out of Urayasu, while similar boats operated out of the rival port to the west at Ōta.

Many of these boats were designed to allow the use of a mast with a single spritsail. Others, which I believe were expected to be towed or carried aboard the large net fishing Utasebune, were only designed to be paddled.

At one time, large numbers of bekabune operated out of Urayasu on Tokyo Bay. Photo courtesy of the Urayasu City Regional Museum.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Kujirabune (鯨船) – Report from the Taiji Museum

While I received a digital copy of the Japanese whaleboat replica plans from the Taiji Museum curator, Mr. Sakurai, I never got the museum catalog he had offered to send. I didn’t worry about it, because I did have the plans, and I wasn’t charged anything, so I didn’t want to bother Mr. Sakurai about it.

Then, just yesterday, I received an email from Mr. Sakurai about it. He apologized and said he would be sending it out to me right away. Apparently, he was reminded of this, as my shipmodeling friend, Sekiguchi-san, just made a trip all the way to Taiji to visit the museum. He spoke with Mr. Sakurai briefly and asked him some questions that I think we both had about the whaleboat’s design.

He apparently also studied the full-size whaleboat replica on display there. I’m hoping he took some photos as well. Anyway, I’m looking forward to getting the museum catalog, which I believe is what we would more commonly refer to as an exhibition guide. I’ll report more when it arrives. Ω

 

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.

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

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading