As a wasen modeler, how awesome is it to be able to see film footage that actually shows a Lake Biwa Marukobune (丸子船) under sail? Recently, someone posted a Youtube link on Facebook to a clip from an old Japanese movie. At the start of the clip, you can see a Marukobune setting out.These boats were used for carrying cargo and passengers on Japan’s Lake Biwa.
When I visited Japan in 2016, I had the pleasure of having dinner with a couple Japanese ship modelers in Tokyo. One of these gentlemen is Mr. Masami Sekiguchi of the Yokohama Sailing Ship Modelers Club. We’ve been regularly in touch via email as he has helped to answer questions for me on Japanese traditional boats, architecture, and anything else I need help with from Japan.
It was he and the other gentleman I had dinner with in Tokyo, Mr. Norio Uriu, who went and investigated a collection of models at the regional museum in the Ota ward, that I discovered when researching a spreadsheet I found online regarding wasen model dispositions. They took many dozens of photos documenting the models, which were in storage at the museum.
In early November, boatbuilder Douglas Brooks wrote a post on his blog about an unusual type of boat found in the area of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, which is located northeast of Kyōto. The boats feature a slightly rounded, sharply angled bow, built of narrow staves, called Heita.
The heita-built bow is a type of construction common to many boats of Lake Biwa, including fishing boats, cargo boats, and even rice field boats. Mr. Brooks specifically mentions Marukobune (Mah-roo-koh-boo-nay). Though the boats he shows on his blog are not Marukobune, they share the same style of bow construction, and his mention of Marukobune in particular intrigued me, as I’d seen something about this type before, but didn’t know anything about it.