In Search of Biwakobune (琵琶湖船)

As you may recall, I’ve been reading about the Marukobune of Lake Biwa. In the book, there are some small drawings of various boat used in and around the lake. Besides the Marukobune, which was a cargo and passenger transport, there were fishing boats and rice field boats, the latter often being used for various tasks.

Marukobune on Lake Biwa

I was intrigued by the many small wasen types, so I’ve been on a hunt for better drawings. The ones in the book are nice, but they were scanned and printed at a fairly low resolution, as they appear pretty small in the book. They also have no scale.

At the suggestion of the book’s author (turns out, my friend and mentor, Douglas Brooks, helped edit the book, and he knows the author very well, so he contacted her for me), I contacted one of the english speaking staff members of the Lake Biwa Museum, where the drawings originated. He, in turn, contacted the curator in charge of that part of the collections.

In the end, I was able to download some of the collections catalogs and other publications from their website, which included drawings of several of the Lake Biwa boats, or Biwakobune. Now, I just have to sort through the material and see just what all I’ve managed to get.

Lake Biwa Museum material inventory catalog no. 14

Unfortunately, these are not the original drawings, and while they are of better resolution than the drawings in the book, they’re still not particularly great. But, they may be good enough, and it’s probably as good as I’ll get from the museum staff without more academic credentials or an in-person visit.

Anyway, there is a lot of information available on-line for free. Their online database has many photos, but they’re low resolution, so they’re pretty unusable. that you can download from their research archives here:

I’ll be digging through the material for a while, and will post findings here. But, it seems I may need to start planning a trip to the Lake Biwa Museum.


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