Wasen Projects for 2021

At the start of 2020, I wrote about an “Explosion of Wasen Model Projects” and I listed several projects, some have been long-time desired projects that were coming to life, and a few were new projects entirely. Here’s a rundown of those projects, followed be a look at what’s happening in 2021.


Himi Tenmasen – This was a project commissioned by boatbuilder Douglas Brooks. Though not a simple model, It was a quick project, as I had plenty of access to all the details of construction of the actual boat. This was something of a “full-time” build, which I started in mid-April of 2020 and finished by the end of the following month, about 5 weeks later.


Honryousen – Another commissioned project for boatbuilder Douglas Brooks. This time, I actually worked on a second model at the same time, though I put my focus on finishing the first one. This project began in January of 2020 and both hulls were completed by the end of February, with detailing of the first model completed around the end of March and it was shipped off to its new home in early April.

The sencond had further detailing added many months later, and was sent as a gift to Douglas Brooks in mid-January of this year, 2021.


1/20-scale Hozugawa Kudaribune – This one didn’t happen at all. I was looking at making this a larger-scale version of the model I made at 1/40-scale, but then I discovered that the Hozugawa downriver boat company had let the last wooden downriver boat completely rot and had thrown it away. I’d hoped to get some detail photos of the boat when I heard the news from Douglas Brooks. Dismayed by the news, I decided I had less reason to build the model, so I shelved it, at least for now.


Senzan Maru – Nothing major happened in 2020 regarding this whaleboat-style craft, though I did make a hull former for a 1/20-scale model. That’s a start, but a lot of subjects get this far and no further. However, check out my list for 2021 below for some news on this.


Sekobune – Like the Senzan maru, nothing really happened on this at all in 2020. Still, given that this subject probably has some of the most visual appeal, and the fact that I am in possession of a usable copy of drawings, it will soon be time for me to take this on.


1/20-scale Tenma-zukuri chabune – This project got its start in 2019, and was my first project that included the development of my own set of drawings. It moved quickly and I’d finished all the basic construction later that year, but it wasn’t until 2020 that I’d determined how to deal with the finish of the model and how to deal with its copper coverings.

This turned out to be a nice model that I don’t think I’m quite done with. It still feels like it needs a diorama, though it’s not a priority for 2021. Still, don’t think you’ve seen the last of this one.


Tonegawa Takasebune – This Edo era cargo riverboat had been calling out to me for quite some time, and 2020 was the year I managed to take it on. Feeling that I had sufficient informational resources, I began a model of a 60尺, or 60-foot, boat, but my plan to make a 1/20-scale model got modified due to the large size of the completed model. Since I had a 1/72-scale Kitamaebune and, potentially, a Higaki Kaisen of the same scale, I decided to make the Takasebune match them to offer a nice size comparison. The result is a small model, but that’s given me the opportunity to add some cargo details.

The model structure is complete, but there are still some details that need to be finished. Still, it was something of an accomplishment for 2020. It would be nice to get started on a 1/20-scale version, but I don’t know if that’s in the cards for 2021 or not. That’s a “we’ll see” project. In the meantime, there are some finishing touches for the 1/72-scale model for 2021.


Projects for 2021

Following a pretty serious downturn in my productivity due to family concerns this last Fall and holiday season, things have turned the corner after the start of the new year, and 2021 has a number of projects that are taking off. First off, there are some lingering on-going projects that I need to wrap up soon, and the ones that will absolutely get wrapped up are the 1/72-scale Tonegawa Takasebune and the Kitamaebune. But, take a look at the newest push which is taking place now.


1/20-scal Senzan Maru – The whaleboat-style Senzan Maru recently got a big boost among my projects for 2021, as it came to my attention that the actual boat is the only Edo period wasen that is still in existence, and in 2015 it was designated by the Japanese government an Important Cultural Property. It is also one of the few wasen subjects for which there is an entire book and set of drawings available.

I’ve already started construction on the hull of the Senzan Maru, so expect to hear news about the build shortly.


Kitamaebune – This Woody Joe kit based project began at the end of 2018 and in early 2019, I had decided to start adding extra details. I took a lot of pauses because of this, but I mostly finished by the end of 2020, with essentially just the sails and rigging to deal with. I’ve still been experimenting with the sails and started them again for the 3rd time. This should be completed in the first quarter of 2021.


Kobaya from Paris Drawings – Another long-term project with big pauses. This one started as an experimental project way back in 2017, and by the Summer of 2018, the hull structure was done and painting had begun. There were a lot of pauses on this project as I was dealing with a lot of unknown details and trying to find ways to create the details as I saw them. While it’s mostly looking complete, it doesn’t have it’s array of sculling oars. Also, I have no solid information as to the design of a cabin that should be on the foredeck or a possible awning framework over the entire deck. So, this is a long-term work in progress. Will it be done in 2021? Good question! The answer is, maybe.

I will make it a point to take this project at least as far as the model in the Musee de la Marine, which is patterned strictly on the Paris drawings. To do this, I basically need to decide on the completion of the rudder mounting and to finishe andrig all 28 sculling oars, and add the sawari, the decorative tassel that hangs from the tip of the stem. On this, I’ll suggest a Summer target.


Tonegawa Takasebune – Like the Kitamaebune model, this one is mostly awaiting the completion of the rigging. The sail in this case is done, but just needs to be rigged. That’s required me to add a few details to the model for lines to tie off to. But, that’s already done now, and I’m mostly dealing with cargo now. It’s amazing how much cargo it takes to fill up one of these boats.

There are also a few small details still to deal with, including some things that I’d like to add, like an anchor or two, as well as figures. But, figures is another matter for 2021.


Edo Nitaribune – Some time ago, I discovered that I’d managed to acquire drawings of this boat, And, to be honest, I don’t know where I got them from. This is a cargo boat used on the canals and rivers of old Edo. I presented the drawing to the wasen study group I’ve been trying to work with, which is an informal association that meets at Kanagawa University. With some help there, I’ve managed to identify the drawings as one done by the late Mr. Kazuyoshi Fujiwara, a Japanese boatbuilder with whom Douglas Brooks studied under in his third apprenticeship.

The boat drawings appear to be ones used in the construction of a boat used by the group, Wasen Tomo no Kai, or Friends of the Wasen. Specifically, it is for a boat they call Kawasemi, which is the name of a type of bird known in the west as a kingfisher.

I’ve already made the hull former and started work on the lower hull. You’ll see more about this project soon.


Other Possibilities

Besides these, I’d also really like to make a model of the chokibune that Douglas Brooks built with his teacher Fujiwara-san. But, there’s already a lot of items listed here and there are other potential subjects, including one of the many small boats that were used on Lake Biwa, a larger Takasebune model, another one of the boats recorded by Armand Paris. Then, of course, there is my long-term desire to build a examples of the warships of the Sengoku period, the Sekibune and Atakebune. But, those I think are a ways off. Before I get to that, there are also a number of drawings available of river workboats from Toyama prefecture, and I should really model at least one of those.

Anyway, stay tuned to read up on some progress on one or more of the subjects I’ve listed for the new year. Ω


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