Before the advent of laser cutting, Woody Joe made two bezaisen kits, the Sengokubune and the Kitamaebune. Both were described as 1/30 scale models, but were in actuality about 1/60 scale. These kits were supplied with milled wood parts, wooden sheets, strips and dowels. Construction was more what one would expect from a wooden model kit.
The third and final part of my Higaki Kaisen build article is out with the latest issue of Seaways’ Ships in Scale. While I was actually relieved to see the previous article, so those building the kit would have the information I’m trying to pass along, it’s kind of sad this time around. Though I’ve had other multi-part articles published in the magazine, I’d really like to keep writing about this kit to generate more interest in this and other Woody Joe kits.
Of course, there are other Woody Joe kits to write about. It’s been my plan to write about building the Hacchoro with modifications based on my visit to the replica boats in Yaizu harbor. But, it takes time and I have other projects I need to be working on. So, finding time for that one will be a bit rough.
But, at least all the information on the kit is in print, and hopefully, interested model builders will take advantage of the information, go out and buy the kit, and have a fun and successful build.
Of course, I’ll keep posting info about this and other traditional Japanese watercraft here. So, stay tuned!
Yesterday, I received the latest Ships in Scale, the May/June 2017 issue containing part 2 of my Higaki Kaisen build article.
I’m kind of relieved to see this one. While the first part of the article discussed the background of these ships in detail, it didn’t talk at all about the kit. The problem was that seeing the model, some people would certainly be tempted to go out and buy the kit without knowing more about it, and if they didn’t read the article and the editorial on it in the previous issue, they might not have noticed that the instructions are only in Japanese, which is partly the motivation for writing the article. So, now that it’s out, I feel a lot more comfortable about it the article series.
This issue includes my list of what to watch out for in the building of the kit, including which steps contain cautionary notes written in Japanese, and what those notes say. It’s a relatively short section compared with the last issue. That’s probably good, because those not building this kit will probably find the reading quite dry. Based on this installment, I’m guessing that there will be two more parts to the series, but possibly three depending on the editors.
It’s official! I heard from a fellow ship modeler who said he really enjoyed the first installment of my Higaki Kaisen article. I hadn’t received my author’s copy yet, and my own subscription expired a few months ago, so I went onto Seaways.com to renew. When I was there, I saw the ad for the magazine showing this month’s issue and, lo and behold, there was my Higaki Kaisen model on the cover.
It’s actually the second time the model has been on a magazine cover. The first time was on the cover the of Nautical Research Journal. But, it was really nice to see it on the new Ships in Scale. I have to admit, the photogenic aspect of the model has more to do with the interesting nature of the subject and the incredible work done on the kit’s development by the manufacturer, Woody Joe.
Still, I’m pretty proud of the model and of the article. I hope readers here will have a chance to read the article. More importantly, I hope more modelers will take an interest in building the kit and other Japanese boats.
Special thanks to all the people who’ve helped me with this article and in better understanding Japanese traditional watercraft including Douglas Brooks, Toshihiko Shibafuji, Masaki Tanimura, Norio Uriu, Masami Sekiguchi, Jean Pierre Mélis, Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Yukari Gojo of Woody Joe, and Kazunori Morikawa of Zootoyz, as well as supportive fellow ship modelers Don Dressel and Richard Rubinger, and a special thanks to Ed Von der Porten for all his editing help.
I hadn’t heard any word at all from the editors of Seaways’ Ships in Scale magazine after submitting my article on the construction of Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen kit. I submitted the article in late November, so I figured I’d send them a note to ask what the status was. I got their reply a short time later and it’s good news, the article is scheduled to appear, starting with the March/April issue.
Given the size of the article, I expect it will appear across 3 issues. That’s the what happened with my Mary Taylor model article a few years back, and it was of similar size. This one actually might be a little longer, so maybe it will span a 4th issue. I don’t like super long articles, so I hope it gets limited to 3, but certainly no more than 4.
As a reminder, Zootoyz is selling Woody Joe kits again, and they’ve revamped their website a bit and added the newer offerings, like the Kitamaebune. That, by the way, is a slightly beefier cousin to the Higaki Kaisen, built for the long journeys between the northern ports and the large port cities of the south. If you are interested in a less complicated kit, but really like the look of the Higaki Kaisen, consider the Kitamaebune. It’s a newer kit, same 1/72 scale, with simplified construction for about $20 less.
If you don’t subscribe to Ships in Scale, now is a great time! You can find out more information from their website here: http://seaways.com/. Back issues include my reviews of the Woody Joe kits Higaki Kaisen, Kanrin Maru and the Charles Royal Yacht, as well as my article on scratch building the pilot boat Mary Taylor.
At some point, I am considering detailing Woody Joe’s Hacchoro kit too, and writing up an article about that. I already have the kit sitting and waiting in the closet. Too many other things to finish up first!
Those of you interested in building Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen kit, I just completed the final edits to my article and sent in the 29-page work to Seaways’ Ships in Scale magazine, and is accompanied by a selection of 44 photos and illustrations.
I’ve been working on this writing project for a terribly long time, at least 2-1/2 years, if I recall correctly, though the model only took a matter of a few months to complete. The big hold-up has been in trying to develop an accurate and informative background on these coastal Japanese transports.
This will be my sixth article submission to this magazine. And, while the last 4 articles I’ve written have been 3500-word kit reviews, this one is a good 25% larger than my 8500 word, 3-part article on scratch-building the pilot boat Mary Taylor, which probably means it will be a 4-part article. I would have preferred no more than a 3-part article, but the background on the type of ship is so unknown to ship modelers that I devoted one-quarter of the article just to that. Anyway, I think people will find it interesting.
I won’t know if the article will be accepted for certain. But, it is an unusual subject, and not your run-of-the-mill western-style ship. Hopefully, I’ll know more in a few weeks, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, if you want to purchase one of these kits, as always, I recommend purchasing from Zootoyz in Japan. Ω
This should make it easier to get your wasen model kit!
Those of you who are interested in kits from the Japanese manufacturer, Woody Joe, will be happy to hear that after more than a year, Zootoyz is now carrying Woody Joe kits once again. I received word from Zootoyz owner Kazunori Morikawa on Sunday. The purchase links for Woody Joe kits on his website, http://zootoyz.jp, are now active again.
He just made the announcement, so it may take a little time to make some corrections to the site, as there are several new Woody Joe kits that aren’t listed yet, like the new Kitamaesen, and the I400 submarine, etc. There are also some old items that may be no longer available that are still listed on the site. Finally, it looks like the exchange rate calculator may need to be updated, as the prices are off slightly.
So, give him a little time to fix things up…
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Yaizu is a coastal city on Suruga Bay, 10 miles south of Shizuoka, and about 50 miles southwest of Mt. Fuji. On a clear day, you can see Fujiyama. I visited Yaizu during typhoon season, and the mountain was obscured by clouds. Yaizu is the home of two replica Hacchoro (hot-cho-ro), fishing boats that got their claim to fame as boats of these types were once commissioned as escort boats for the retiring Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu.
The story goes that the Shogun, or military ruler of Japan, liked to hunt game using a falcon. Travel to the hunting grounds required a trip by sea. To provide escort, 24 fishing boats were commissioned. But, the fishermen operating the boats had a difficult time keeping up with the Shogun’s boat due to strict limitations in place on the number of oars that could be implemented on fishing boats – a limitation imposed to limit the military capability of the craft. The fishermen of Yaizu were then granted permission to use 8 oars, which gave the boats their name – Hacchoro, translates to “8 oars”.
I owe much thanks to my contact and friend at Woody Joe, Mrs. Yukari Gojo, who coordinated my visit with Mr. Hiroyuki Kobayashi, who works with the Hacchoro. Yukari-san drove me from Shizuoka to Yaizu and Mr. Kobayashi met us there. Accompanying us was David O’Neil, an American student at Shizuoka University, who served as an interpreter.
I have been in touch with Mr. Kobayashi for many months. I found him through Mr. Toshihiko Shibafuji, who I have been in contact with ever since I began working on the Tosa Wasen model, late in 2015. Mr. Kobayashi had offered to meet me in Yaizu and show me the Hacchoro, but it was Yukari-san that finalized everything by email and telephone and provided the transportation, which save me a lot of time and trouble.
The Hacchoro were wrapped up for the season, so the four of us had to spend a bit of time untying and unwrapping. I’m very thankful to David, in particular, for getting his hands dirty and sweating in the hot and humid afternoon, as he was just there to interpret.
The sun was amazingly hot as it beat down on us, and humidity was up around 87% to 90%. It had rained prior to my arrival, but cleared up when I arrived. I’d actually expected it to rain during my entire visit to Japan but lucked out, as it really only rained on one occasion, and I never once felt the need to break out my umbrella.
Climbing up on the deck of the Hacchoro, I felt a bit out of place. I’d never studied boats up close like this, and never had access to them like this. Having 3 people go out of their way to help me out was a new experience for me. I didn’t even know what to ask at first. But, as I looked over the boat, details about it started to gel. I’d built a model of the boat from kit, and there were a number of differences, and I started taking in some of the details.
The first thing that I really noticed is that these wooden boats are aging. I later learned that the two are nearly 20 years old, and they are showing their age. They were built in 1997, and every year, they get patched up, deck boards are replaced, the hull is repaired as needed, and the boats are put once again to sea.
Mr. Kobayashi indicated that no other will likely be built. So, they have to make these last. The results of hull patch work can be seen on the hull exterior, as the repairs are covered by copper plates. The hull itself seems to be in the better shape than the decks, probably due to annual clean-up, repair, and repainting. The condition of the wood making up the decks was a bit disconcerting. At one point, our translator, David, took a step, and his foot went through a rotting board.
But our visit and these pictures, were at the end of the operating season for these boats. It would be nice to see the boats at the beginning of the season with new wood, new paint, ready to put to sea again.
Regardless of the condition at this time of year, there were a lot of details to check out. One item is common on many Japanese boats, a kind of faceted post. I’ve seen photos before, but never at this angle. From most angles, it appears like a faceted ball on a tapered post. But from here, the design is clear, and I should be able to replicate it easily. At some point, I’d seen the name in Japanese, but it escapes me at the moment.
Some of the deck boards had a feature that I only learned about when building the Tosa Wasen kit last year. There are scribed lines on some sections deck boards to aid in putting the boards down in the right order. When everything is in the right place, the lines form a large “V” or arrow that points toward the bow. Also, in every set of planks, there is at least one board with a finger hole, allowing you to easily pull up the boards.
Another feature that these boats have that is not on my model, are wooden strips nailed to the underside along the edge of the bottom board. These serve as skids that protect the bottom, when hauling the boat up onto the shore.
There is, of course, far more to mention. But this post is really about my visit. I have since purchased another Hacchoro kit and will review it and the many updates I plan to make to it. The Woody Joe kit is a simple build. It’s in my nature to make it far more complex. Watch for future updates about that project!
As for the visit to Yaizu, after we climbed all over the Hacchoro and got all dirty and sweaty, the four of us went to lunch across the harbor. I sat down to a plate of sashimi that, being in a fishing port, was extremely fresh, and surprisingly inexpensive. We sat, talked, ate, and rested.
Afterwards, we returned to the Hacchoro to wrap it back up again to protect it from the weather, and spent a bit more time discussing the boats. As the day was getting on, and I still had to take the train to my final destination that day, which was still another 4 hours away by train, we hurried to the next stop that Mr. Kobayashi wanted me to see. We headed toward the big red building that you can see in the background of many pictures of the Hacchoro at Yaizu harbor (in fact it’s visible in distance in the fifth photo I posted here). That building is the Fukuichi Fisheries Co., building or Fukuichi gyogyō kabushikigaisha.
The company has a memorabilia collection on the building’s top floor, which I might point out, has no air conditioning, so they hand out uchiwa, or small, round, hand-fans. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend here, but it was an interesting collection. Somewhat random selection of items: fishing poles, buckets, models, paintings, outboard motors, full sized boats, ropes, anchors, floats, a small Japanese-style ropewalk, etc.
Unfortunately, it was only a very quick look. We then headed a short distance to Yaizu station, where I saw these new friends for the last time. I have been in email contact, but who knows when or if I will see them again. I am grateful to them all for making my visit to Yaizu so special and so memorable, and it gives me great resolve to do something good with what I’ve learned about the Hacchoro. Ω
Last week, I spent an entire afternoon in San Francisco setting up my latest display of models of Japanese traditional boats in the Japan Center Mall in San Francisco. This is the largest display I’ve done, which is now up to 5 models. It’s probably about as large as it will get as I can’t imagine that I can possibly cram any more into my car. And, given that I live about an hour’s drive outside the city (or two hours in bad traffic), I’m not likely going to be making two trips to set it up. But, the size is actually pretty good now.
Since I’m doing some fundraising to go to Japan this Fall to do some more first-hand research on Japanese watercraft (don’t forget to check out my gofundme page), I’m taking the opportunity to really get some attention for this display. As with those people involved in the fine arts, I’ve made up an announcement card that I’m having printed up that I will be sending to various friends and people that I think will be interested in it and possibly interested in helping me out (as well as those who have already done so). In addition, I’ve made a simple email announcement photo that I’ve been sending to people.
If you’re already familiar with the last couple displays, you will see two new models added, a simple Japanese traditional boat shop display and the Tosa wasen model. Both are a nice, big 1/10 scale, so the details are better for a window display like this.
You may notice in that display window photos that I’ve created little silhouette boatmen to provide scale reference for each model. This was a last minute effort, though I’ve been thinking about it for months. I finally sat down and scoured the Internet and found photos of boatmen dressed in traditional outfits on someone’s blog photos. I took the best one and did some Photoshop work to turn him into a silhouette, which I scaled to the needed sizes, printed them, and mounted them on cardboard.
There are, of course, things to do differently next time, which I’ve already noted. The boat workshop display should probably be on some kind of a riser, like the other models, there is enough room to put up another large, hanging photo board, and there’s room for at least one more model, using the tall stand I introduced in this display. I suppose I could consider staggering them a little too.
That tall stand, by the way, is actually a better stand for me to use because it’s simple two boards hinged together. This makes them foldable and they take up a lot less space in my car. I’m seriously thinking about replacing the box pedestals on the other models with short folding stands, which would allow me to carry more stuff in my car. And, actually, if I build models without sails, I might be able to fit one or two more in that car. Of course, that means building more models and I’m pretty far behind on other projects as it is. We’ll see… Ω
I have completed an initial draft of notes I compiled on building the Hacchoro kit by Woody Joe. The kit is a model of an 8-oared Japanese finishing boat from the area of Yaizu, Japan, which is on the coast, roughly about 100 miles southwest of Tokyo. The boat is a traditional type boat, following the classic 5 sided Japanese construction. That is, bottom, garboard strakes and shear strakes in a hard-chine hull configuration.
The real boats were roughly 45 feet long and could carry 3 square sails on masts that could be stepped as needed. There are still Hacchoro in existence today, though I don’t know what the total number is like. I also don’t know how they are used today, except that there are Hacchoro races where teams man the boat’s oars to race each other on a short course.
I am aware of two operating Hacchoro in Yaizu. With the help of a wasen authority in Japan, I have made contact with a gentleman in Yaizu who has offered to show me the Hacchoro there. So, I am now making arrangements to see them in order to record some of their finer details for later use in modeling them. This is part of my Japanese Boat Research Trip that I’m trying to raise some funds for. If all works out, I will take lots of photos and record the details.
For now, anyone who is building Woody Joe’s Hacchoro kit can download a copy of my notes.
But, in using these notes, you must accept that these are just suggested guidelines and there are always the possibility of errors in the document. Also, the document includes my own translation of the text of the Woody Joe instructions. I am not an expert in translating Japanese into English. Use them to give you more confidence in using the kit instructions, but you must agree not to hold me responsible if you end up gluing a part into place wrong. The kit is pretty well buildable using just the illustrations in the instruction book. But, sometimes it helps to know what the text says. Also, note that there are a lot of labels in the instructions, and I’m only translating the descriptional text and not all the individual labels.
Of course, if you have any questions about the document, just send me a comment with your email address and I’ll answer as best I can. Ω