Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 1

In the last year or so, I’ve been working a lot on some wasen model scratch builds. There are the Hozugawa Ayubune, the Urayasu Bekabune, and others. In the meantime, my pile of Woody Joe kits keeps growing. So, I decided it’s time to get another one of these kits done. Luckily, Woody Joe kits are relatively quick builds.

The Kitamaebune or Kitamaesen kit is listed by Woody Joe as taking about 70 hours to build. Compare that to their more complex Higakikaisen kit, which takes about 50% longer to build. I spent about 3 months on that kit.

The Kitamaebune seems like it will take considerably less time to build the basic kit. But, this is the first bezaisen I’ve built since visiting Japan in 2016. There are a lot of details I managed to see up close on the Hakusan Maru, the bezaisen replica on Sado Island. So, I may put some extra work and time into this. Continue reading

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Japanese Boat Models Display 7.0

Just last week, on a rainy March 1st morning, I packed up my car with stands, posters, models, signs, and accessories, and drove 2 hours through traffic to set up the latest and largest Japanese boat models display yet. 7 models in all are on display in the window of the Union Bank community room in the Japan Center Mall from now through the end of March.

This year, Woody Joe’s Hacchoro, Higaki Kaisen, and Yakatabune are prominently featured, along with Thermal Studios’ Tosa Wasen, and my scratch built Hozugawa Ayubune, Urayasu Bekabune and Kamakura period Umibune.

Just over half of these models are based on kits, mostly from Woody Joe. And, if your interested in building one of these wonderful kits, of course, I always recommend Zootoyz.jp as your source for Woody Joe, and other kits. Here is some information on the models in this display – click on their titles to go to a website where you can purchase the kits. Continue reading

Higaki Kaisen Build Article – Ships in Scale March/April ’17 Issue

I hadn’t heard any word at all from the editors of Seaways’ Ships in Scale magazine after submitting my article on the construction of Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen kit. I submitted the article in late November, so I figured I’d send them a note to ask what the status was. I got their reply a short time later and it’s good news, the article is scheduled to appear, starting with the March/April issue.

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Given the size of the article, I expect it will appear across 3 issues. That’s the what happened with my Mary Taylor model article a few years back, and it was of similar size. This one actually might be a little longer, so maybe it will span a 4th issue. I don’t like super long articles, so I hope it gets limited to 3, but certainly no more than 4.

As a reminder, Zootoyz is selling Woody Joe kits again, and they’ve revamped their website a bit and added the newer offerings, like the Kitamaebune. That, by the way, is a slightly beefier cousin to the Higaki Kaisen, built for the long journeys between the northern ports and the large port cities of the south. If you are interested in a less complicated kit, but really like the look of the Higaki Kaisen, consider the Kitamaebune. It’s a newer kit, same 1/72 scale, with simplified construction for about $20 less.

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Woody Joe’s Kitamaebune kit. A beefier bezaisen than the Higaki Kaisen.

If you don’t subscribe to Ships in Scale, now is a great time! You can find out more information from their website here: http://seaways.com/. Back issues include my reviews of the Woody Joe kits Higaki Kaisen, Kanrin Maru and the Charles Royal Yacht, as well as my article on scratch building the pilot boat Mary Taylor.

At some point, I am considering detailing Woody Joe’s Hacchoro kit too, and writing up an article about that. I already have the kit sitting and waiting in the closet. Too many other things to finish up first!

 

Higaki Kaisen Build Article Submitted

Those of you interested in building Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen kit, I just completed the final edits to my article and sent in the 29-page work to Seaways’ Ships in Scale magazine, and is accompanied by a selection of 44 photos and illustrations.

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I’ve been working on this writing project for a terribly long time, at least 2-1/2 years, if I recall correctly, though the model only took a matter of a few months to complete. The big hold-up has been in trying to develop an accurate and informative background on these coastal Japanese transports.

This will be my sixth article submission to this magazine. And, while the last 4 articles I’ve written have been 3500-word kit reviews, this one is a good 25% larger than my 8500 word, 3-part article on scratch-building the pilot boat Mary Taylor, which probably means it will be a 4-part article. I would have preferred no more than a 3-part article, but the background on the type of ship is so unknown to ship modelers that I devoted one-quarter of the article just to that. Anyway, I think people will find it interesting.

I won’t know if the article will be accepted for certain. But, it is an unusual subject, and not your run-of-the-mill western-style ship. Hopefully, I’ll know more in a few weeks, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you want to purchase one of these kits, as always, I recommend purchasing from Zootoyz in Japan. Ω

Woody Joe Kits are Back at Zootoyz

This should make it easier to get your wasen model kit!

The Ship Modeler

Those of you who are interested in kits from the Japanese manufacturer, Woody Joe, will be happy to hear that after more than a year, Zootoyz is now carrying Woody Joe kits once again. I received word from Zootoyz owner Kazunori Morikawa on Sunday. The purchase links for Woody Joe kits on his website, http://zootoyz.jp, are now active again.

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He just made the announcement, so it may take a little time to make some corrections to the site, as there are several new Woody Joe kits that aren’t listed yet, like the new Kitamaesen, and the I400 submarine, etc. There are also some old items that may be no longer available that are still listed on the site. Finally, it looks like the exchange rate calculator may need to be updated, as the prices are off slightly.

So, give him a little time to fix things up…

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Hacchoro – Notes for building the Woody Joe kit

I have completed an initial draft of notes I compiled on building the Hacchoro kit by Woody Joe. The kit is a model of an 8-oared Japanese finishing boat from the area of Yaizu, Japan, which is on the coast, roughly about 100 miles southwest of Tokyo. The boat is a traditional type boat, following the classic 5 sided Japanese construction. That is, bottom, garboard strakes and shear strakes in a hard-chine hull configuration.
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The real boats were roughly 45 feet long and could carry 3 square sails on masts that could be stepped as needed. There are still Hacchoro in existence today, though I don’t know what the total number is like. I also don’t know how they are used today, except that there are Hacchoro races where teams man the boat’s oars to race each other on a short course.

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I am aware of two operating Hacchoro in Yaizu. With the help of a wasen authority in Japan, I have made contact with a gentleman in Yaizu who has offered to show me the Hacchoro there. So, I am now making arrangements to see them in order to record some of their finer details for later use in modeling them. This is part of my Japanese Boat Research Trip that I’m trying to raise some funds for. If all works out, I will take lots of photos and record the details.

For now, anyone who is building Woody Joe’s Hacchoro kit can download a copy of my notes.

But, in using these notes, you must accept that these are just suggested guidelines and there are always the possibility of errors in the document. Also, the document includes my own translation of the text of the Woody Joe instructions. I am not an expert in translating Japanese into English. Use them to give you more confidence in using the kit instructions, but you must agree not to hold me responsible if you end up gluing a part into place wrong. The kit is pretty well buildable using just the illustrations in the instruction book. But, sometimes it helps to know what the text says. Also, note that there are a lot of labels in the instructions, and I’m only translating the descriptional text and not all the individual labels.

Download Hacchoro Notes and Translated Instructions

Of course, if you have any questions about the document, just send me a comment with your email address and I’ll answer as best I can. Ω

Higaki Kaisen Display at San Francisco’s Japan Center

It’s official, my Higaki Kaisen model is now on display in the East Building of the Japan Center Mall in San Francisco’s Japantown. The model is in the window display of Union Bank’s Community Room.

The model is in a case made using a Woody Joe case kit. I made a couple informational displays to go with it. Sorry about the quality of the photo. Shooting through glass in brightly lit open area doesn’t work out so well. Maybe with a polaroid filter – do they make those for iPhone cameras?

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My Higaki Kaisen model in the window display at Union Bank’s Community Room in San Francisco’s Japantown.

The bank administrator was very happy with the display and cleared out all the general promotional bank stuff that’s normally in there. The model will be on display from now until about April 3rd, when SF Cherry Blossom set up takes place and a Japanese doll display goes in. We’ve already discussed the possibility of bringing the model back after some time in May when the display case may become available again.

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The display is right off this open courtyard. What looks like a bridge is actually a stairway.

The only thing is that the model looks awfully lonely in the big display window. We both agreed that there should be two other models to accompany it – the display window is just laid out perfectly for that.

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My model seems sad to be all alone in the big window.

Now, I do have a partially completed Hacchoro model, which will actually be larger than the Higaki Kaisen model since it is at 1/24 scale. I just need to finish it and get another display case. Not sure what to do about the empty third spot. I have the large Sengokubune kit, but it’s unstarted, and there’s no way I can justify taking the time to build it with all these other projects waiting for me.

Woody Joe’s 1/24-scale Yakatabune kit is a possibility as it’s almost identical to the Hacchoro in construction except that instead of all the oars and sails and accompanying details, it just has a deckhouse. That would be a pretty quick build and it would fit the theme very well.

Lastly, because of the low position of the floor of the window display, a friend of mine was suggesting maybe putting in some kind of box stand. I suppose anything would work. Lot of possibilities here. Almost screams for some kind of diorama.

Thinkin’, thinkin’…

 

Higaki Kaisen in NRG Journal

I got a nice surprise a couple months ago when the editor of the Nautical Research Journal, Paul Fontenoy, asked me to submit a short article on my Higaki Kaisen model. So, a while back, I sent him some photos to use and a very short write-up with some captions to accompany the photos. Then, I got an even nicer surprise when I was told the model would appear on the cover.

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Having been an NRG member/supporter and having long admired the models that have graced the pages of the Journal, this was a really tremendous honor. Now, I’ll have to admit, it really the model subject and the uniqueness of the kit that got the model on the cover and not my artistry or craftsmanship. But, still it’s pretty nice to see it there.

Of course, being that I’ve been advocating Woody Joe kits here, it’s great to get people’s attention this way. I got an extra copy of the issue and sent it Woody Joe and they should be receiving it any time now. I’m sure they’ll be very happy to see their kit receive such attention.

The timing of this article probably couldn’t be any better, as I just submitted the proofs for my Higaki Kaisen kit review article, which will appear in Seaways’ Ships in Scale in the next few weeks. As for my history/build article for Ships in Scale, I’ve been getting pretty distracted with all the projects I’m trying to get done. But, with these articles both out in August/September, I’ll need to get back on it very soon.

But, while I’m mentioning the NRG here, I would like to say that this is a really fine organization, dedicated to ship modeling, and it deserves and needs your support. It’s not all academic and it’s not about being “purists” or anything of the like. The tagline “Advancing Ship Modeling Through Research” is just to say it’s about making better models, it’s about helping the modeler make better models, it’s about getting help to build better models.

Seeing my own model on the cover, I can’t help but wonder when the last time was that a kit build was featured on the cover? Times really do change. So, join the NRG. It’s a great organization, you’ll be supporting a great cause (ship modeling) and you’ll get your quarterly issue of the Journal!

 

Higaki Kaisen – Naming Your Ship

While I finished my Higaki Kaisen kit some time ago now, it recently occurred to me that some builders may have trouble with the Japanese characters for the nobori or the banner at the stern of the ship. The kit provides a blank piece of cloth for this, so if you don’t know how to write in Japanese, what do you do?

Well, maybe this will help. Below, I’ve put a couple names together in Japanese. If all else fails, copy these into your word processor, enlarge them, arrange the characters so that they are oriented vertically and print them out on regular paper. Make the banner out of that and at least you won’t have a blank banner at the stern!

This is the the name of our kit from Woody Joe. It is not a ship name per-se, but it’s more descriptive: Higaki Kaisen – 菱垣廻船

This is the name of the replica ship upon which this kit was based. Naniwa is another name for Osaka: Naniwa Maru – 浪華丸

Any others? Maybe not so imaginitive, but you could use names of local cities. So, how about the name for old Tokyo, Edo: Edo Maru – 江戸丸

I don’t know how symbolic or imaginative coastal transport names got, but you might also just do a google search for your favorite Japanese symbols like the Pine Tree (Matsu), or the crane-tortoise (tsurukame), thunder god (Kaminari), mirror (kagami). If you can find the characters on a website, you can copy them and print them out for your own use.

Higaki Kaisen model completed

After a few marathon ship modeling sessions over the past week or two the Higaki Kaisen model is done. Well, more or less. I got through the last of the construction steps, but still have a little cleanup left to do and tying off of some odds and ends.

 

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Today, I finished the task of the name banner that flies at the stern. This a traditional style Japanese banner called a “nobori”. This one consists of a flag pole with a cross pole at the top. The banner has loops of cloth along one edge and across the top that fit the poles. The includes cloth for making the banner, but you’re supposed to write the ship’s name on it. Since I can’t write kanji, I resorted to printing the name onto paper using my computer.

For this ship, I chose to use the name Kakehashi (kah-keh-ha-shi), which is means bridge or connection. In this case, the model is something of a bridge between my interest in ship modeling and my interest in my Japanese heritage. Actually, the full name of the ship is the Kakehashi Maru – Maru is a suffix that is used for ship names.

 

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This is definitely not the kind of model that gets easier as one gets near the end. Rigging the sail was quite a challenge with 38 lines tied to it’s edges. What you might call the sheets consist of 13 ropes tied to the foot of the sail with the other ends tied to a heavy rope that runs between the bulwarks railing. I had quite a time adjusting these lines to get the sail shaped the way I wanted. In the end, after I got the lines all about equally tensioned, I realized I wasn’t all that happy with the shape the sail had taken on. But, with so many ropes and knots, I just adjusted the sail as best I could. The next day, I looked at the model with fresh perspective and was much happier with the sail.

 

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One of the last things on the model is the adding of the copper capping. Copper caps cover the end up many of the beams. At the stern, small copper strips simulate the nail covers. So much copper is added at the stern, that this section appears quite ornate. I ended up using contact cement to fix these into place. It’s a little messy, but seems to clean up fairly easily. Also, used properly, you have a little time to adjust the pieces after they are laid into place. But, be careful of the brand you use. Read the directions as some are specifically not to be used with copper.

 

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Other finishing touches included the anchors, the stay on the mast and all its details.

 

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There are still a couple things that I may yet add to this model. Often, ladders have been used on the main decks of the replica bezaisen to climb up on the main cabin roof deck without having to go inside the cabin, and the same for the forward deck house or Kappa (cop-pah). Also, these ships traditionally carried a small boat called a Tenma-Bune (ten-mah-boo-ney) which was used for going to and from shore or other ships. I’d like to scratch build one and add it to my Higaki Kaisen model, but we’ll have to see if my understanding of the construction of these Japanese wasen is up to the task.

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This has been a very different, very interesting, and extremely fun build. Woody Joe kits might seem a little pricey in the US, particularly for the small size of this model in particular. But, in the end, I think it’s been a great value. I’ve learned something about traditional Japanese ships and the model has been a great challenge.

If you’re interested in the kit, there are a couple things you may find of interest. One is that there are a lot more Amazon sellers listing this kit, though they are almost all in Japan. But, I no longer see the price gouging attempts on Ebay and Amazon that I once did. My personal recommended seller does not have an Amazon store, but is, of course Zootoyz. And if you do buy from Morikawa-san, please tell him I sent you.

But, another interesting turn of events is an importer that is reportedly bringing several Woody Joe kits to market in the US, primarily through Amazon, but with instructions he’s had translated into English. I don’t know what they’ll end up charging for the kits, but it will probably be more than what you would pay for the kits directly from Japan. Of course, with the kits from Japan, you’ll have to deal with Japanese language instructions. But, as I mentioned before, the instructions are very well illustrated. For the Higaki Kaisen, there is of course this blog, but also my plan is to write up a multi-part article for Ships in Scale magazine that should take the guess work out of the Japanese language instructions.

So, stay tuned, Higaki Kaisen fans. There should be more to come!