As regular visitors to this site know, I’ve quite a bit of interest in ship model kits from the Japanese wooden model manufacturer Woody Joe. They seem to be on a spree, releasing new kits and revising old ones. So far this year, they’ve revised their Hacchoro and Yakatabune ship model kits, released a new 1/350-scale kit of Tokyo Station, and revised their two Cutty Sark model kits (1/100 and 1/80 scales). At the beginning of October, they released two new mini-kits, both “wasen” or traditional Japanese-style boats, the Hobikisen and the Utasebune.
I keep an eye on Woody Joe’s new releases and saw these on their website (http://www.woodyjoe.com), and bought them as soon as they were released. I got them through my friend Kazunori Morikawa, who runs the online hobby store Zootoyz. He doesn’t list any of Woody Joe’s mini-kits on his site, but he can get them.
These two kits basically feature the same hull, with slight variations. Both hulls are just about 8 inches long, with the completed models measuring around 11-1/2 inches in length. The Hobikisen is the taller of the two at around 11-1/4 inches. The Utasebune is closer to 6 inches tall. The exact scale is not specified, but is somewhere around 1/55 for the Hobikisen and 1/45 for the Utasebune.
The Hobikisen is a type of fishing boat employed on Lake Kasumigaura, which is about 50 miles northeast of Tokyo. It employs a method of side-ways propulsion to drag fishing nets through the water. The Utasebune represents a small boat used in shrimp fishing off the Hokkaido coast, Japan’s northern most major island.
I didn’t know anything about these boats until the Woody Joe kits came along, and I had to do a little bit of Internet research to understand, in particular, why the Hobikisen’s sail is set sideways, and why this doesn’t tip the boat over. But, more on the operational and historical details later. For now, I just want to give a peek at what these kits are about.
As expected, these kits are made from the aromatic Hinoki, Japanese cypress. Each contains 9 to 12 small laser cut sheets of wood, a small number of thin dowels, sail cloth, rigging line, brass wire, and a metallic tape printed with the boat’s name. Each kit also includes a nicely illustrated, 12-page color instruction booklet.
As with all Woody Joe kits, the instructions are in Japanese. But, the parts in the kit are easily identified in the plans with a very clear numbering system and well labeled parts bags. Each laser cut sheet is assigned a number that corresponds with the numbers in the instructions, with each part on the sheet marked with an identifying letter either on or next to the part on the sheet. This is right up with Woody Joe’s excellent standards.
These two new kits are mini-kits. They are designed to take up little space and provide several hours of enjoyable building at a low cost. Both kits sell for under $50: 4,500¥ for the Utasebune and 5,000¥ for the Hobikisen. I don’t know how accurate they are, and they certainly aren’t super detailed, but they give you enough detail to make a very nice model and should make very nice weekend projects.
I started working on the Hobikisen and can tell you that they go together very quickly and the parts fit very well together. I’ll go into more detail on the building of these kits in the near future. For now, if you’re looking for highly detailed challenging builds, these kits may not satisfy you. But, if you’re interested in small models of traditional Japanese workboats, and are looking for something fun and interesting you can build in a matter of days or even hours and for not too much money, these should do nicely. I’m thinking these will also make nice gifts, either as kits or as completed decorative display models for my former taiko or shamisen teachers.
My Hobikisen kit going together.