Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 7

The Tenmasen

This Woody Joe kit does not include a tenmasen, which is the small ship’s boat used for transferring crew and cargo to and from the ship, but neither did their Higaki-kaisen kit. The tenmasen is normally carried across the deck, atop the kappa, which is the small forward cabin where ropes and sails are stored. They are used by the Higaki-kaisen as well as the Kitamaebune.

Image from a Tokyo Maritime Science Museum book on bezaisen such as the Higaki Kaisen and Kitamaebune. Note the tenmasen forward of the open main deck.

Up to now, all the tenmasen I’ve seen illustrated have been pretty heavily constructed boats, propelled using one or two ro, or sculling oars. In contrast, the tenmasen recorded in the Paris illustrations is very wide and flat, appears somewhat lightweight, with a shallow draft, and is equipped with a pair of sculling oars, as well as 10 paddles, which are used much like western-style oars.

Tenmasen reconstruction at the Hakusan-maru Museum on Sado Island.

Tenmasen reconstruction at the Hakusan-maru Museum on Sado Island.

Tenmasen from Paris’s Souvenirs de Marine

The large number of paddles, or kai, that appears on the Paris drawing would seem to suggest that this boat was used to ferry crew to and from shore, as it would take at least 10 oarsmen to operate – the bulk of a ship’s crew.

The large sculling oar could have been used to steer. This boat would probably have been quite fast used this way. Using just the sculling oars, cargo could have been placed on the wide deck, and one or two oarsmen could have handled the boat.

Given that the only actual plans or measurements I have for a tenmasen are the Paris drawings, and the only actual 19th century evidence of tenmasen construction for a kitamaebune, I am fashioning mine from the Paris drawings.

I had to adjust my tenmasen somewhat to fit the model, as the tenmasen in the Paris drawings was over 36 feet long. It would stick out beyond the sides of the ship, but I’ve seen pictures of models of bezaisen with boats that did just that. Particularly when placed on top of the kappa. I settled for a 5% reduction in overall size, to reduce the length just a little. This still makes it about a 34 foot boat.

I tried a few different methods for building the boat, but at 5.75″ long, it was hard to build it in traditional wasen fashion. So, I ended up compromising, and carving the lower hull from lifts made of hinoki. This simplified the construction process greatly. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of the construction process, as it was so experimental, and I was determined to keep building until I had something workable.

It wasn’t until I had gotten this far that I saw how shallow and wide this boat is.

This boat’s shallow draft is certainly made up for by is broad beam, so I expect it was able to carry a decent load of cargo. Its shallow draft must have allowed it to easily reach locations without the need for port facilities – ideal for a trade ship buying and selling goods on its trip up and down the coast.

The boat fits well on the kitamaebune, but I will need to make some kind of modification fo the ship to allow the boat to be tied down.

I have some details now to add to the tenmasen, including nail detail, loops for paddles (kai), and mounts for the sculling oars (ro).

More Details

In the meantime, I’m back to working on more copper plate (vinyl) details, with some custom pieces I’m now adding. Also, there are various tiny details I’m adding as I go, even though I’ve had to temporarily remove some details to make room for others. Unfortunately, I can’t really explain what some of the added details are, as I don’t have the vocabulary to describe the parts they were added to. But, I can share a couple photos.

One easy to describe detail is included in the kit. That is the sagari, which is a large, hanging tassel that serves a function similar to a figurehead on western-style ships.

On the Hakusan-maru, the sagari is a lot smaller.

But, if you look at the one mounted on the Michinoku-maru, a larger kitamaebune reconstruction that actually operated on the ocean for a time, it’s a bit closer in size.

Still bigger on my kitamaebune model, but I’m satisfied with it. I have noted the rope that runs around the sagari on both reconstructions. That’s something I want to add.

So, the next stage is to finish up the small details. I’m almost done with the application of vinyl details. Then, I’ll proceed with adding some little things to finish up the hull before I move on to detailing the sail and maybe adding a light mast at the bow.

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