Higaki Kaisen Model – Edo Tokyo Museum

The subject of my second Japan boat/model posts is a large Higaki Kaisen model (檜垣回線) located in the Edo Tokyo Museum. The ship is a type of sengokubune (千石船), or 1000 koku ship, a type of bezaisen (弁才船) or coastal transport.

The model is one of the largest models I’ve seen in Japan so far, very nicely detailed, and is particularly nice in that it is relatively easy to photograph as it is fairly well lit and you don’t have to shoot through glass or acrylic. I don’t know the exact scale, but I think it must be about 1/10-scale. I believe there is a larger model in Japan, but this one is readily accessible.

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Sengokubune Model – Toba Seafolk Museum

The subject of the first of my Japan boat/model posts is a Sengokubune model (千石船模型) located upstairs in the Toba Seafolk Museum. Sengokubune, or 1000 koku ship, is a common term for the large coastal transports that were more formally referred to as bezaisen (弁才船).

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Paris’s Souvenirs de Marine

There are a several kits available to the wasen modeler, between Woody Joe and Thermal Studio, but if you want to scratch build something unique, you’re going to have an extremely difficult time. Japanese boat builders didn’t draw detailed plans the way western boat builders did, and pretty much all that is available are those created from a study of an existing boat type.

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However, there is one fairly accessible set of drawings of Japanese watercraft that was made in the 1880s and published in a set of books called La Souvenirs de Marine by French Vice-Admiral François-Edmond Paris. This set of large-format books has seen a number of re-prints, and I’m not sure what the date is on the most recent reprint. But, there should be copies accessible in most of the larger library collections, and used copies can be found on Amazon and other booksellers, with prices that vary greatly depending on edition and condition.

Drawings included are of ships from across the globe, and the text is in French, but this collection contains some of the few contemporary records of traditional Japanese watercraft available. Of the sections I’ve collected from the books, one illustration plate shows four different riverboats of various types. Other plates show two examples of bezaisen, or coastal transports. Other plates show a couple examples of highly ornate row galleys, one of which bears the crest of the Chiba clan on it’s large squaresail.

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I haven’t studied these drawings in too much detail except for the two sets of bezaisen drawings, which are specifically of what appear to be northern port coastal transports, or Kitamaebune. The text doesn’t mention any Japanese terms, and again, it’s all in French. But the drawings are fairly well detailed. And, I suspect the text doesn’t give a huge amount of detail about the watercraft as it’s mostly limited to labels and sidebars.

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Now, that I look at it more closely, I’m seeing how I might be able to model some of the other boats illustrated in the books, so I’m finding myself more interested in learning about them. If I find out more, I’ll post about them here.

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There are a couple of paperback books of selected plates that were published by James E. Hitchcock, which you can find on Amazon.com for less than $10. While the images are scanned and reprinted from an original copy, and the French text is very difficult to read, the book provides a handy reference so you can determine which plates you may be interested in.

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I have found that the San Francisco Maritime Research Center has the set of books available, and will scan whatever figures you need and will email them to you at your request at no cost. You can contact them for details at 415-561-7030 or email them through the Park’s website.

Books from Japan

When I visited the Toba Seafolk Museum on Tuesday, I took a lot of photos. In fact, I killed off a camera battery, but luckily had purchased a second battery before leaving for Japan. I also made sure to purchase a larger SSD card for my camera. A 32GB card wasn’t all that expensive, and literally allows me to take 1000’s of pictures before filling up the card.

But probably the biggest find for me was in their gift shop. Okay, first biggest find was the cold, bottled water (The temperature was in the 80’s with something like 86% humidity). But the next biggest find was that they had several books on Japanese boats. Some of them I was aware of, but I was surprised to find titles I was not aware of.

It was difficult looking through all these books, because I really wanted them all, and their not available in the U.S., and, as I verified later, they are very hard to find on the Internet in Japan. Of course, I couldn’t get everything I wanted to buy, and not just because of the cost, but also I’d be lugging them around Japan for the next several days.

So, I selected a few titles. A couple that I passed up, I had thought I’d seen though Japanese online sites, and a few others, I figured I’d find in other museums I’d be visiting, so I might still be able to pick them up. As for lugging them around Japan, well I could just send them to my Tenso.com account, which is a forwarding service I signed up for that gives me a Japanese mailing address, and that will package up anything I send them, and they’ll ship it to my home. Of course, books are a bit heavy and shipping won’t be cheap. So, I’m lugging around what I can for now.

I can’t tell you anything about these until I’ve had a chance to sit down and do some translation and study, but you can see what they are:

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The last book was a “no brainer”. It’s a small format publication from the Tokyo Museum of Maritime Science. It’s just a 40-page book and cost a whopping $3 (300¥).

The other three books were $15 each, except for that third book, which included a set of drawings. I thought it was $35, but I think they only charged me about $26, as best as I can figure.

As you can see, the first three are numbered. They’re part of a series of books that appear to be connected to the Nippon Foundation. But, the publication information in the books all reference the Museum of Maritime Science. There looked to be some 9 books in the series, though some of them looked to be on subjects I wasn’t interested in.

The third book, I believe the title refers to a boat named the Senzanmaru, I got mostly because it was the only book I’d seen that included a set of plan drawings. I know nothing of this boat, but hey, the drawings make it build-able. So, I bought it in kind of a “shoot now and ask questions later” mentality (I have to say that phrase now has become incredibly awkward to write). Here are a couple of the sheets.

The top one shows the actual Edo period boat below and an artists rendering of the original boat above.

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The plan drawings are really done in a modern style, which is a good technical drawing, but a model builder will have to loft a lot of the hull planking details from one of the sheets which shows station lines and hull contour.

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Meanwhile, the little book on Higakikaisen and Tarukaisen included a nice fold-out (centerfold sounded weird)

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Today, I’m off to the Edo Tokyo Museum and will try to get to the Urayasu Museum as well. There’s a Typhoon passing by this afternoon. With luck it will mostly stay away, but I might get the first rain of my trip today.