Douglas Brooks Ukaibune Tour

I just recently heard from boatbuilder Douglas Brooks that he is back in Japan again on a 7-week mission. This time, his goal is to travel to as many sites he can, where ukaibune, or cormorant fishing boats, are used. His trip began on October 30th and he’ll be traveling through Japan, with a brief stop in China to see the boats used there.

An Ukaibune built by Mr. Nasu.

As you may recall, cormorant fishing is an old method where fisherman used trained birds, cormorants, to fish in rivers. In Japan, the birds are called ukai, and the boats used in cormorant fishing are called ukaibune. Last year, Mr. Brooks documented construction of an ukaibune in Gifu prefecture with 85-year old traditional Japanese boatbuilder Seiichi Nasu. That boat was launched at the Ukai Museum in Gifu City in July 2017.

You can read more about the Ukaibune on his website here:

And about the Ukaibune construction project on his blog here:

After his arrival in Tokyo, Mr. Brooks stopped by the Urayasu Museum, where he built one of his first wasen with the late Mr. Nobuji Udagawa. The museum has changed a lot since that time. As you may recall, I visited there two years ago to find that the boatbuilding shop  that was set up there has now become a model building workshop. I wrote about this in a post on Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights blog, since it was so similar in many ways to our ship model group’s workshop at the Maritime Park in San Francisco.

Former boat shop at the Urayasu Museum, now a model shop. Mr. Shimamura, whom I met on my visit in 2016, is in the foreground speaking with a visitor. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

One of the volunteer model builders working on a wasen model. I don’t know the specific type. Likely a net fishing boat of some type. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

Wasen models and tools on display at the back of the workshop. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

Of course, as a boatbuilder who spent many hours studying and building wasen in this very place, this is not what Mr. Brooks had hoped to find at the museum.

The replica waterfront at the Urayasu Museum. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

While in Tokyo, Mr. Brooks also stopped by the family home of his teacher to pay his respects to Mr. Kazuyoshi Fujiwara, who passed away just this last April. Mr. Fujiwara was his teacher for his third apprenticeship, with whom he studied and built a Edo period chokibune and a tenmasen.

Two models given to Mr. Brooks by his teacher Mr. Fujiwara, shown here at the NRG Conference in Mystic, CT, in 2016. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.

Brooks is now in Niigata where he met with a pair of boatbuilders there. Hopefully, he’ll get an opportunity to visit the Konpira Shrine there, where he said he would take lots of pictures of the wasen models there and send them to me.

Stay tuned! Ω

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