Most ship modelers expect to see kits made in the USA and in Western Europe. With expanding trade, we’re even seeing some kits from Easter Europe and Asia. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to discover wooden ship model kits being made in Japan.
There is basically only one wooden ship model kit maker in Japan, a company called Woody Joe. I’m only guessing that the name kind of implies an American style influence to the Japanese market. Certainly, it’s not an attempt to appeal to an American market, since they don’t currently sell to their products in the US.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get them, however. Through the “magic” of the Internet and the ease of use of Ebay, Woody Joe kits can be easily purchased in the US. However, Ebay dealers understand that the kits aren’t available in stores here and expect that American’s don’t have access to Japanese on-line stores directly, so they charge unreasonably high mark-up. I can’t imagine them selling many, or ANY of these kits in the US. But, as they say, there is a sucker born every minute.
The kits all feature an extensive selection of laser cut parts. Other parts are etched brass or cast metal with a few parts in plastic. But, in the kit I looked over, those were just the ship’s boats and blocks and could be easily replaced.
The one thing you absolutely have to be aware of is that the instruction and plans are only in Japanese. However, the instruction booklet is very well illustrated and with a little care, I think an experienced ship modeler would have little trouble building the model.
I’ve recently been talking with Roger Jeya at Ages of Sail and with a contact at Woody Joe about getting some of their kits distributed here in the US, but there are unspecified issues that need to be worked out by the manufacturer.
If you’re interested in the kits, though, and you don’t want to wait for your local hobby dealer to stock them, there is an alternative. In contacting Woody Joe, they directed me to a Japanese online hobby store that handles international sales. The best thing is that it’s all part of their normal sales and they don’t try to gouge your wallet. The have an english language area of their website, which shows the same price in yen regardless of language or country. The page also shows the dollar amounts as you add items to your shopping cart.
Interestingly enough, I found shipping to be fairly reasonable considering this stuff has to come by air. I had ordered a ship model kit, paid about $40 in shipping on a $350 order and received the item within a week. If I had done the same with some American online dealers, I probably would have still paid $20 for shipping and it would have actually taken longer to get it.
This was also about $200 cheaper than ordering from a dealer on Ebay. Of course, with Ebay, you can pay with Paypal and you get certain protections, which can really help in case you’re dealing with an amateur or unprofessional seller. But, dealing with an established dealer that has been recommended by the manufacturer shouldn’t be a problem. Here’s the link for the online hobby dealer in Japan:
You can also email them in english if you have a question about your order. If you want to see the Woody Joe website, which is all in Japanese, the link is here:
Finally, they have some nice looking models of Edo period Japanese sailing vessel in larger scales. And, you might want to check out their temples and castle kits.