Initial Thoughts on Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen

Recently, my kit review of Woody Joe’s Kanrin Maru kit was published in Seaways’ Ships in Scale and I’ve since begun looking at Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen kit. I’ll develop a complete review pretty soon, but I have had a chance to work on the model a bit and I do have some initial thoughts on the Higaki Kaisen kit.

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My first impression is that it’s a fascinating looking build of a traditional Japanese ship. There are a lot of laser cut parts and it’s missing the traditional framework we’re used to seeing in ship model kits, but there is a small set of frames that make up temporary building molds that helps hold the hull parts in place during construction.

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Building this model is very different than building a traditional ship model. In some ways, it’s a little bit like building a plastic kit in that there are so many pre-fabricated parts. But, the ship’s design is so different from Western ships that it seems like a lot of engineering had to be done to create the kit. This makes it a fun build, but it also means that parts have to be placed very specifically (unlike with most plastic kits which provide alignment pins), and if one part is not aligned properly, it will affect the fitting of other parts later, so it requires a lot of patience and care. This is not a kit that can be rushed.

Looking at the manual in the kit, you can tell right away that this is an involved build – it’s 32 pages long and packed with illustrations. There are so many illustrations that you almost don’t need to know any Japanese to build it. Almost.

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The Higaki Kaisen is not like the western style ship Kanrin Maru. A ship modeler who builds the Kanrin Maru pretty much recognized the parts in that kit and has a general idea where things are going to go. If the part is not familiar, the placement in the illustrations are usually enough to clarify things. But, the average ship modeler looking at a part on the traditional Japanese style ship Higaki Kaisen is more likely to have no clue as to what the part is for or how it’s supposed to fit. The illustrations in the instructions help, but there are many places where the builder is told, in Japanese, not to glue certain parts into place. And, if you have no way of reading that text, it’s going to be a problem.

As I see it, the best way to deal with this is to either know someone who can read some Japanese for you, or to look for an English language guide to the kit. So far, I’m not aware of one, so if no one else does it, I may try to put something together. We’ll see.

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Even if you can follow all of the instructions, the unusual design of the Higaki Kaisen and the engineering that went into it sometimes requires steps that aren’t all that apparent. For instance, in one step, several beams are added and all of them glued into place except one, which must remain loose until a later time. Also alignment of parts is very critical, so you want to make sure you are extremely careful and look well ahead in the instructions to see what is going to happen later with the part you’re working on. It may actually make sense to jump ahead and fashion some sub-assemblies that are installed later, to make sure that the will fit properly with the parts you’re currently putting into place.

All that said, this is an incredibly interesting model to work on. It’s a lot less predictable than other ship model kits since the vessel is so different. I know my own build won’t be perfect, but with care any mistakes will be fixable, or at least they will be hideable, and its completion is going to be a fun and interesting journey. Ω

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