From Douglas Brooks – The Cormorant Fishing Boat is Done

I got an email this morning from American boatbuilder Douglas Brooks, who has been in Japan, studying and constructing an Ukaibune, or a traditional river fishing boat used by the cormorant fishermen of Gifu prefecture.

Photo of completed Ukaibune courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

The boat is reportedly 42 feet long, 4 feet wide, and used some 900 nails in construction. And, for those not familiar with Japanese traditional boat construction, we’re not talking about wire nails, we’re talking about hand-forged flat iron nails.

A pair of Japanese made iron nails used in wooden boatbuilding.

The boat will launch in one week.

Learn more by visiting his blog at: http://blog.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com

As always, I can’t recommend his book enough. Order direct from his website to assure that all proceeds go to help fund additional research. Plus, short of meeting the author in person, this is the only way to get an inscribed copy: http://douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/japanese_wooden_boatbuilding.html

Tell him I sent you and you’ll help give me more leverage to get him to provide some plans for ship/boat modelers to scratch build from.

 

Douglas Brook at the Sabani Races in Okinawa

If you haven’t been following his blog, now is a good time to check in on blog.doublasbrooks.com to get an update on his efforts to study the construction of an Ukaibune, or Cormorant fishing boat.

The ukaibune with the last of the hull planks going on. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

But for the moment, at least as far as his blog updates are concerned, Mr. Brooks is taking a break from work and visiting Okinawa to see the sabani races.

Sabani are semi-dugout boats with thick cedar hull planking. While traditional Japanese boats have been disappearing, the sabani made a resurgence due to the interest of wooden boat sailing enthusiasts.

Okinawan sabani. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

Mr. Brooks studied the construction of this traditional Okinawan boat through an apprenticeship back in 2009/2010. You can read about the boat and the apprenticeship in detail in his book on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding. There is also a nice write up on the sabani on his website.

Sabani racing in the beautiful waters of Okinawa. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

Mr. Brooks is only taking a 1-week break, so I imagine we’ll see an update on his blog soon about the ukaibune project. I don’t imagine it will be long before we see the completed boat engaged in cormorant fishing on the Nagara-gawa.

Building a Hozugawa Ayubune Model in 1/10 Scale

There are a lot of potential wasen subjects to model, but good plans are difficult to come by. Also, when decent drawings are found, it’s often difficult to find or to understand the details of the subject. I’ve been toying with a lot of different possible model building subjects, but would usually run into some issue that kept me from pursuing it further.

Recently, I sort of re-discovered a subject that I seem to have overlooked before. It is a boat that Douglas Brooks wrote about in past blogs from about 3 years ago, when he was building a boat in Kameoka, Japan, which is about 16 miles west of Kyoto. There, he built a Hozugawa Ayubune, a type of simple fishing boat that was used on the Hozu river.

15 shaku Ayubune built by Douglas Brooks in Kameoka, Japan, in 2014. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

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Douglas Brook in Gifu Prefecture to Build Ukaibune

I got an email from Douglas Brooks while on his flight to Japan last week to build an Ukaibune, a boat used by cormorant fishermen in Gifu prefecture. I also saw that he recently  posted his first blog entries from Japan, as he begins work on the new project.

Douglas Brooks’s recently completed Ayubune

I saw from Internet posts elsewhere that he is going to be working with someone from Tri-Coastal Marine to take measurements for CAD work. I don’t know any details beyond that, though I’ve been trying to look into this further as the company is local to the San Francisco Bay Area.

The cormorant fishing boats are big, and they are someone complex in shape and structure compared to other Japanese river boats. But the would certainly be interesting models.

An Ukaibune, a boat used in Gifu prefecture for cormorant fishing.

Here’s a link to Douglas Brooks’s first post from Japan this trip: http://blog.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/2017/05/now-in-gifu-japan.html

Check out the great photos of the 15-shaku (15 foot) Hozu river Ayubune that he built for a client just before he left for Japan. This particular boat has some extra “bling” in the form of small copper plates that were never used on the real riverboats.

An Interview with Boat Builder Douglas Brooks

American boatbuilder Douglas Brooks has been working hard to study and document the craft of traditional Japanese boat building. He’s off again to Japan this month to study the construction of the cormorant fishing boats of Gifu prefecture.

An interview with him was just appeared on the Merchant & Makers website: http://www.merchantandmakers.com/the-craft-of-japanese-wooden-boatbuilding-with-douglas-brooks/

For more information on Douglas Brooks, visit his website at: http://www.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com

 

Douglas Brooks Building Cormorant Fishing Boat in Gifu

Boatbuilder, and my personal Japanese boatbuilding mentor, Douglas Brooks will soon be returning to Japan to begin working on the construction of an Ukaibune (鵜飼船), a cormorant fishing boat, in Gifu. In mid-May he will be working with Mr. Seichi Nasu, who may very well be the last builder of these famous Japanese boats.

The 85 year old Mr. Nasu has built over 700 boats of various types in his lifetime. But, unlike with Brooks’s past apprenticeships in Japan, Mr. Nasu will not be directly involved in the construction, and will instead direct, while Brooks provides the physical labor.

Ukaibune on the shore of the Nagara river. Image courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

Ukaibune are incredibly long and narrow. In Gifu, they are generally worked by three fishermen at night by firelight. From these boats, the fishermen use cormorants to catch fish. A snare is placed around the base of the bird’s throat which allows it to swallow smaller fish, but not larger ones, which are instead held in their mouths. When a larger fish is caught, the fishermen bring the fish back aboard the boat and where it spits out the fish. It is a very old tradition practiced not only in Japan, but also in China, and parts of Europe.

In Japan the practice has become less about catching fish and more about bringing in tourists, at least in Gifu, where the tourists number in the hundreds of thousands annually. There, on the Nagara river, fishing is done at night, as tourists ride around in viewing boats, observing the 1300 year old tradition.

Cormorant fishing on the Nagara river. Image from go-centraljapan.jp.

I’ll post more about the building of the Ukaibune as I learn more. In the meantime, you can follow the work of Douglas Brooks by visiting his blog. There’s some interesting information about the cormorant fishing boats from his February 2014 visit.

To learn more about the man and his past projects, or to buy his book on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding (highly recommended), visit his website at http://www.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/

For more information about cormorant fishing in Gifu, check out this site: http://en.go-centraljapan.jp/place/detail_115.html

Book: The Tub Boats of Sado Island

I just found out that Douglas Brooks has a number of copies of his book, The Tub Boats of Sado Island: A Japanese Craftsman’s Methods, available for sale.

This book is in Japanese, but includes a full english translation in the back with translated photo captions as well. It was published in 2003 by the Kodo Cultural Foundation and lists for $38.99 plus shipping from the Kinokuniya book store. However, they list it as out of stock.

The author with Mr. Koichi Fujii. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

You can get a copy now, inscribed by the author, for only $30 including shipping. Take advantage of this opportunity by emailing the author directly. Here’s a link to his contact page: http://www.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/contact.html.

If you didn’t know, these boats are called Taraibune (たらい舟), and were used on the Echigo coast of the Sea of Japan and on Sado Island. If you ever visit Sado Island, there are a couple places where you can take a ride in one and even try out using the front mounted oar. Douglas Brooks did his first traditional apprenticeship in Japan with Mr. Koichi Fujii, who was the last professional tub boat builder on Sado Island until his death in 1999.

Taraibune for tourists at Shukunegi village, Sado Island. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks

Learn more about Taraibune on Mr. Brooks’s website: http://www.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/taraibune.html

 

Douglas Brooks’ Japanese Boatbuilding Class Project

American boatbuilder Douglas brooks recently finished teaching a one-month class on building a traditional Japanese wooden boat at Middlebury College, in Vermont. The subject was a boat that was once used on the Agano River in Niigata Prefecture.

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What an awesome class to be part of! The students did an amazing job. I can only wonder if they realize how fortunate they are to have been part of this experience.

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You can see more photos and description on Douglas Brooks’ blog here. Ω