Reference Books

Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, by Douglas Brooks – Published in 2015, this book described the craft of Japanese traditional boatbuilding from the learner’s viewpoint. The author, Douglas Brooks, an American boatbuilder by trade, visited Japan in the 1990s and began a discovery of this old and rapidly disappearing craft. Making great efforts to help preserve the skills and knowledge, he went through apprenticeships with five of Japan’s aging master boatbuilders. The knowledge and his experiences are documented in his book. You can find this book through the usual booksellers, but if you order direct from the author, you can get a personally inscribed copy and the proceeds go to support additional research.

The Tub Boats of Sado Island, by Douglas Brooks – This is the first book written by Douglas Brooks on the subject of Japanese wooden boatbuilding. Specifically, this is about the Taraibune or “tub boats” of Sado Island. This is actually a Japanese book written in both Japanese and English, and is published by the Kodo Cultural Foundation. Anyone who knows about Japanese taiko drumming can probably tell you all about the Sado Island based taiko group, Kodo. This book is available through Japanese book sellers like Kinokuniya, but it’s much easier, and cheaper to purchase your copy direct from the author, plus you can have it personally inscribed by the author. Simply send an email using  the Contact Info on his website.

Souvenirs de Marine, by Admiral Paris – The original 3-volume set of book was published in the 1880s and contains plan drawings of ships from around the world. This happens to include a few traditional Japanese watercraft. The text is in French and all the hard-bound sets are very expensive. However, a ship modeler has taken the drawings from a public domain copy, and published them in a book of selected drawings. It is a very inexpensive softcover book. However, I recommend contacting the San Francisco Maritime Research Center. They will scan and email you pages of the book. And, last time I checked, there was no charge for this service.

“Marukobune” the traditional sailing boats in the Lake Biwa region, Japan, by Kumi Makino – This is one of the few books on a Japanese boat type that’s been translated into english. The 240-page, small format, softcover book features the Marukobune boat type, which is a cargo boat that is specific to Lake Biwa. It doesn’t go into much construction detail, though there are some drawings of this and other boat types of the region. Unfortunately, the drawings are very small. The book is written in an academic style, and focuses more on the region, the lake, how people lived, and how the various boat types were used. The $50 book is available on, but buy it from the Japanese Amazon site that the above title links you to. The American sellers jack the price up by 50% to 400%. Shipping from Japan isn’t bad if you are a Prime member.

There are actually many others, but they’re all in Japanese, so I haven’t been listing them here. If you know Japanese, you probably can find those books easily enough.