Yesterday, I finally got two more books from Japan that I found on Yahoo! Japan Auctions. I’ve found most of Japanese language wasen books I have either on the auctions or on Amazon Japan. The searching of these sites has become much simpler with the advent of a website/service called Buyee. This time, I didn’t use the Buyee service to make the actual purchases, I simply located the books through their website, which links into other Japanese retail sites, and asked a friend in Japan for a favor, and he got the books for me and shipped them to me.
Douglas Brooks’s article on bezaisen, also known as sengokubune, was one of my first references on these big Edo period coastal transports.
It’s a very good article and has some nice photos in it. The cover photo was provided by Professor Kon, who heads the Wasen Research Society at Kanagawa University.
For those of you who might be interested, I just noticed that US Naval Institute has a nice sale price on the book Sailing into the Past. This book includes an article on bezaisen by Douglas Brooks, and features a photo of the replica bezaisen (also known as a sengokubune, or more specifically a kitamaebune) Michinoku-Maru.
The book is a compilation of articles about various replica ships around the world today, and it probably a very good general read. Of course, given my work with Douglas Brooks, I would love for everyone who might be interested to buy a copy.
I don’t know what the regular price is for this 200+ page hardcover book, but it’s only $11.49 at USNI.org. To me, Douglas Brooks’ article is worth the price of the book. Check it out here: https://www.usni.org/press/books/sailing-past
I think it was originally $45.95. So this is a very good…
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In past posts, I’m sure I’ve mentioned this illustrated small format booklet, printed in Japanese, on these Japanese coastal transports.
The ships, generically known by sailors as bezaisen, had specific terms based on their function. The Higakikaisen (菱垣廻船 were cargo transports belonging to a trade guild, and provided regular transport of cargo from Osaka to Edo in the 17th and 18th centuries. Tarukaisen (樽廻船) were barrel carrying transports that carried sake and soy sauce around the same time.
The book explains about these ships, their history, and design. I bought a copy last time I was in Japan, I think I was in the Toba Seafolk Museum gift shop where I found this and several other books I had to have. The price isn’t on the cover, but as I recall, it’s very inexpensive. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get unless you actually travel to Japan. And, even then, you have to know where to find it.
Recently, I received some information that the book is actually available as a free download from the Maritime Science Museum’s website. I checked it out and, sure enough, you can get this booklet for free in pdf form.
Here’s the link to the download: http://fields.canpan.info/report/download?id=3233
Again, the booklet is in Japanese. But, if you don’t read the language, you can print it out for yourself, look over the photos and diagrams, and use Google Translate to help you with small sections of the text – it’s hard to select large sections of text when it’s published in column format.
[EDIT]: The download is from the Nippon Foundation website. So, before you think I might be providing a link to an illegal copy, here’s the link to the Foundation’s download page for this book: http://fields.canpan.info/report/detail/4963. Just so everyone knows!
A couple days ago, a new publication by the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties was posted on their Tobuken website.
Building the Naragara River Ubune with Boatbuilder Nasu Seiichi
The publication is compilation of the work by boatbuilder Douglas Brooks in Gifu, Japan, in 2017, working with 85-year old boat builder Mr. Seiichi Nasu, on the construction of a cormorant fishing boat. The boats are called Ukaibune or Ubune, the latter being a the local term and simply meaning cormorant boat.
The book is in Japanese, but contains Mr. Brooks’s writings about the project, as well as a section by Mr. Masashi Kutsuwa on riverboat culture. For those interested in the tools used in the boatbuilding process, there is a huge section in the back with photos and scale line drawings of each of the tools used.
Only 500 copies of the book are being printed and provided to libraries and research institutions, and none are available for sale to the general public. However, a pdf version is available for download, free of charge, and was recently posted on the Tobunken website:
Also, Douglas Brooks has also completed a manuscript for his own english language book, which will be printed and available for purchase. This will be available, hopefully, in early 2021. Ω
The first treasure of my recent Japanese book buying binge arrived late last week. The book is in Japanese and is called Toyama no Wasen, which means Toyama’s traditional Japanese boats.
This is a beautiful book and it is loaded with drawings. I flipped through it and counted about 30 boats detailed in drawings, though some drawings offer more details than others. Also, some of the rice field boats are little more than floating wooden tubs that are pushed or pulled through the fields by the farmer.
This book appears to be a 2011 publication by the Himi City Museum. I found my copy through Yahoo! JAPAN Auctions. I haven’t seen it listed even on Amazon Japan. I suspect it normally purchased directly from the Himi City Museum and, as it’s a museum publication, isn’t going to be found anywhere else.
While I have plenty of projects and potential projects to work on, I seem to be hungry for new material. Recently, I was hunting for the source of a pdf copy of an out of print book that I had originally obtained from the Nippon Foundation Library a few years ago.
But, try as I might, I couldn’t find it anywhere. In fact, most of my saved links to the site appear to be broken. I hunted for the pdf book, but couldn’t manage to locate it. However, I did manage to run across an actual physical copy on a Japanese auction site. Now, I don’t actually need the book, since I have the pdf file, but it’s always nice to have a physical resource.
The book I found was one on the history of the Takasebune, a term for the various types of shallow-draft transports found on the rivers across Japan. Watch for an upcoming post on researching and reconstructing the Takasebune of the Tone river system.
Continuing with a string of posts about the Japanese ship model society, The Rope, here’s a short, but very interesting article describing a talk given by the curatorial director of the Tokyo Museum of Maritime Science. In this talk, Mr. Iinuma describes Japanese historical boats and the role of the book, Funakagami. I posted about this earlier in the year, along with a link to a downloadable pdf copy of the book. This article in The Rope News is a better discussion of the book that mine, and it’s a very short summary.
I read this and, learned a few key things that I didn’t know about. One in particular was why the stem (the term bowsprit is mistakenly used here) on many yakatabune shown in wood block prints, look incomplete. I’ll let you read that answer for yourself. You can read the article online or download a copy:
And, here is a link to my own blog post on the Funakagami where you can download a copy directly from the Tokyo Museum of Maritime Science: https://wasenmodeler.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/funakagami-a-pdf-book-on-japanese-boat-types-2/
I had to post this, because it is a very rare find. This book, written by Professor Kenji Ishii, was published in 1983 and is pretty much the bible of historical Japanese watercraft.
This is the primary source for my own research on the subject of wasen, or traditional Japanese boats. I bought my copy used from Japan and it cost me around $170 with shipping. It was definitely worth the investment, as this information is extremely hard to find anywhere else, especially outside of Japan.
Well, today, I was updating my post on my Kamakura period large sea boat project and I thought I see if I could find a link to this book on Amazon.com. I did and lo-and-behold, there’s an actual copy available in the U.S. for about $100!
I had to pass this along to readers here – this is a steal! I’m surprised to even see it listed here, because it’s written entirely in Japanese, so I wouldn’t expect copies to be turning up in the U.S. again, except in very rare cases. In fact, I don’t even see it listed on Amazon Japan at the moment.
Buy it before it’s gone. Seriously.
I just found out that Douglas Brooks has a number of copies of his book, The Tub Boats of Sado Island: A Japanese Craftsman’s Methods, available for sale.
This book is in Japanese, but includes a full english translation in the back with translated photo captions as well. It was published in 2003 by the Kodo Cultural Foundation and lists for $38.99 plus shipping from the Kinokuniya book store. However, they list it as out of stock.
You can get a copy now, inscribed by the author, for only $30 including shipping. Take advantage of this opportunity by emailing the author directly. Here’s a link to his contact page: http://www.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/contact.html.
If you didn’t know, these boats are called Taraibune (たらい舟), and were used on the Echigo coast of the Sea of Japan and on Sado Island. If you ever visit Sado Island, there are a couple places where you can take a ride in one and even try out using the front mounted oar. Douglas Brooks did his first traditional apprenticeship in Japan with Mr. Koichi Fujii, who was the last professional tub boat builder on Sado Island until his death in 1999.
Learn more about Taraibune on Mr. Brooks’s website: http://www.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/taraibune.html
When I visited Japan in September, I found that I’d really hit the jackpot at the Toba Seafolk Museum. Not only are there numerous small boats on display, plus dioramas and a dozen or so models, but the gift shop is well stocked with books. I visited early in my trip, so I didn’t get as many books as I wanted to. Sadly, I didn’t see any of the books I was interested in at any other location I visited during the trip. One book I did pickup detailed a boat called the Senzan-maru, 千山丸.
The Senzan-maru is the name given to a boat that was in the service of the Hachisuka clan. The boat was used to deliver messages and to help tow river barges, like the large decorative warship that served as the feudal lord’s yacht. The boat is a type called an Isanabune, a fast, seaworthy boat designed for whale hunting. Many whaleboats and fishing boats were decorated with painted designs on their hulls, but probably not to the same extent as Senzan-maru.