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

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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.