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

 

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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

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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.

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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.

Looking at the Senzan-maru (千山丸), a Traditional Japanese Whaleboat

When I visited Japan in September, I found that I’d really hit the jackpot at the Toba Seafolk Museum. Not only are there numerous small boats on display, plus dioramas and a dozen or so models, but the gift shop is well stocked with books. I visited early in my trip, so I didn’t get as many books as I wanted to. Sadly, I didn’t see any of the books I was interested in at any other location I visited during the trip. One book I did pickup detailed a boat called the Senzan-maru, 千山丸.

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The Senzan-maru is the name given to a boat that was in the service of the Hachisuka clan. The boat was used to deliver messages and to help tow river barges, like the large decorative warship that served as the feudal lord’s yacht. The boat is a type called an Isanabune, a fast, seaworthy boat designed for whale hunting. Many whaleboats and fishing boats were decorated with painted designs on their hulls, but probably not to the same extent as Senzan-maru.

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The highly ornamental hull painting on the Senzanmaru

 

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The decorative bow of a Japanese fishing boat on display at the Toba Museum.

To my understanding, the boat was discovered in a storeroom at Tokushima Castle, and a careful study was done resulting in this book. I don’t know much about the boat, the type of boat, or the Hachisuka clan yet. And, while I have the book, it takes a long time for me to go through Japanese text.

The book includes plan drawings of the boat, and I hope to build a model at some point. I am still trying to understand the design of the boat’s interior and specific features. So, it will be some time before I am ready to build the model.

However, I discovered a very handy drawing in the book that lays out all the major hull components in one, unfolded piece. So, today, I decided to try piecing the hull together using this drawing like a paper model.

I began by photocopying the drawing and enlarging it to fill a sheet of regular office paper. Printed out, this was glued to a piece of heavy card stock, and I cut the model out carefully.

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I found that this folded fairly well into a one-piece model using Aileen’s Tacky Glue with blue painter’s tape to hold the the parts in place until the glue dried.

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It didn’t take long to fold into shape or for the glue to dry. The only thing now is to decide what I want to do with this. The model only consists of the planks and doesn’t include the many internal beams, rubrails, splash rails, mast step, rudder, or deck planking, etc.

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This looks a bit different from the actual Senzan-maru. So, perhaps it’s not what I think it is. It actually reminds of the small fast boats described by Commodore Perry’s expedition.

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I don’t know what more I will do to this small paper model, if anything. It was just something I’ve been kind of itching to put together ever since I saw the drawing in the book, and will serve to help me better understand the design of this boat type and wasen in general. Now that it’s pieced together, I’m considering enlarging the drawing to a proper scale and cutting planks from wood.

However, there are plenty of projects in the works, including a 1:10 scale model of an Urayasu Bekabune, which I also worked on this week. But, more on that later. Ω