Wasen Model in Monterey, CA – Follow-up

This week, I made the trip down to Monterey’s JACL Heritage Hall & Museum and met with curator Tim Thomas. He was waiting for me in front of the building when I arrived, and I was ushered into the museum room, where there were all sorts of displays of artifacts from the Japanese American community’s thriving past in Monterey.

The museum is small as it’s just the one room. But, the museum and the Heritage Hall apparently have their connections and access to a lot of knowledge about the Japanese American community, which was really thriving in Monterey before WWII. The curator has even given talks in Japan about the Japanese in Monterey.

There were various artifacts that I recognized, even a pair of small drums on the wall, which I recognize at tsukeshime daiko (Tsu-keh-shee-may dye-koh), or simply shime for short. I forgot to ask if there was some significance to those, other than for the playing of Japanese traditional music.

The Model

When it came to talk about the model, Tim went over to a wooden box and pulled out what turned out to be a very small, but very detailed model. I have to figure out what scale it is, but it was no more than about 12″ long. I’m guessing it’s probably something like 1/30 scale.


First thing I noticed besides it’s small size is the amount of detail is really nice, particularly for a model of this size. The second thing I noticed is that inside were a sculling oar, large paddle, a mast, and a tiny bailer, and the splash boards that are missing from their place on the rails.

I was able to put the splash boards into place and everything for that was present. The paddle was tangled into the loop intended for the sculling oar, so I cleared that up and fit the sculling oar into place, which fit very nicely.

After talking about various things and discovering that we’re both acquantances of Mr. Hayato Sakurai, who is the curator of the whaling museum in Taiji, Japan, we set  up a table and I got to work taking as detailed measurements as I could.

I was surprised to discover how I had spent over 3 hours at the museum, mostly taking photos and recording measurements of this one model. The more notes I took, the more things that I realized I need to record. Hopefully, I recorded enough information to make some drawings and to reconstruct the model at a larger scale, which is one of the things I hope to be able to do. I will post more specifics about the model at a later day along with the final determination of the model’s scale and all.

But, I just want to point out that, for me, this is quite a find. To examine a museum quality model, I pretty much have to fly to Japan. There is at least one model of a coastal transport up in Washington State, and there is a large whaleboat model in Massachusetts. Plus, Douglas Brooks has in his private collection two models built by his teacher. But, other than these, that’s about all I’m aware of. And, if anyone knows of any in other models of traditional Japanese boats in the US, please contact me, even if they’re in private collections. Ω

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