Wasen Model in Monterey, CA

Earlier this Summer, I was in contact with a gentleman who is a former Historian/Curator for the old Monterey Maritime Museum. Apparently, part of that collection included some Chinese junk models as well as some Japanese wasen models. He didn’t have much information on the Japanese models, but commented that all the models were built back in the 1920s.

While the collection of Junk models has apparently been moved to the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, one Japanese boat model now resides at the Monterey JACL (Japanese American Citizens League) Heritage Center & Museum, where he now works as the Curator.

Wasen Model at the Monterey JACL Heritage Center / Museum

There is very little information on the model, except that it, along with the Junk models, is part of the Greatwood Collection. These were models commissioned by American oil company executive Royce Greatwood, working in the Far East in the 1920s. I’m sure there’s more to the story, but that’s all I know.

The Greatwood collection is known to be the largest single collection of Chinese Junk models outside of China. Sadly, this wasen model appears to be the only Japanese model from that collection. That’s being looked into now. I’m not too hopeful, but it is possible, as  larger Japanese boats, like the coastal transports, often get mischaracterized as Junks.

In any case, I’m working on driving down to Monterey, hopefully in the coming week. My plan is to take a lot of detailed photos and measurements to possibly be able to create some drawings of this boat.

Identifying The Model

From this one photo and a mention that there is a mast laying on the deck, I’m pretty positive that this is a Tsuribune, or fishing boat, used on Tokyo Bay from the Edo period up to around the 1960. This model is very similar to one found in storage at the regional museum in Tokyo’s Ota Ward. For more about that collection, check out my blog article Wasen Models of the Ōta Ward Museum (大田区の博物館).

Actually, it’s similar to several of the models in the Ota Ward Museum. But, there is one in particular that is almost a perfect match. That one is described as a Nomeri type Amibune, or net fishing boat. Nomeri-type refers to the distinctive, downward curvature of the bow. This is a feature found on some boats on Tokyo Bay that helps keep the bow in the water in rough weather, allowing the boat to track straighter and handle the waves better.

Tsuribune - Japanese fishing boat

Tsuribune model with Nomeri-type bow from Ota Ward Museum. Photo courtesy of The Rope Tokyo

The only thing is, I believe that the flatness of the sheer line, at the upper edge of the planking of the JACL model, classifies is as a Semi Nomeri-type. There’s an example of this type of hull in the collection at Ota Ward Museum as well on a Tsuribune, or fishing boat.

Bow of the JACL model, cropped and mirrored for comparison.

Amibune Japanese fishing boat

Amibune model with Semi-Nomeri bow from Ota Ward Museum. Photo courtesy of The Rope Tokyo

But, the decorative features of the JACL model are really interesting to me. And, while the model bears a hull type closer to the Semi-Nomeri type, the decorative features are almost an exact match to that of the Ota Ward’s Nomeri type.

In any case, I will report back once I’ve seen the JACL model in person. Ω


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