Tosa Wasen – Japanese Fishing Boat Kit

A couple weeks ago, I was checking Facebook posts and I saw one from my friend Morikawa-san  who runs the Japanese online hobby shop Zootoyz. He’d posted a Japanese build log that I’d seen quite some time ago regarding the building of a large-scale model of a work boat from the area of Tosa, Japan. When I first ran across the blog, I searched for the kit’s manufacturer, but noted that they no longer produce the kit. It was 6 months to a year ago when I first learned about the kit, so when I saw Morikawa-san post a link to the same blog, I was hopeful that I had gotten mixed up before and that the kit was still in production.

Looking around the Internet again, I found no indication that it was in production. But, thinking about it some more, I remembered that I’d found an out of production wooden Japanese ship model kit on Amazon-Japan before. So, I went to Amazon.co.jp, and used my familiarity with the American site to stumble my way around the Japanese site.

Going back to the posts about the kit, I found the text for the name ”土佐和船” and did a little copy/paste into the search field… And there it was! Available, yet! Well, at least there was one available. Turns out it really is still out of production, but here was an old stock kit for not a whole lot more than the original pricing.

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Instead of the 13,650円 as originally marked, it cost me about 17,000円, which is about $140. I think if it had been listed by someone on the US Amazon.com site, they would have asked twice that amount, so I was happy to pay the $140. There was one hitch. The kit only ships within Japan. But, I’d dealt with that before by enlisting the help of a friend in Japan to serve as a kind of a shipping agent. I had the kit sent to him and he shipped it to me.

Shipping has been all happening very quickly, but I won’t receive the kit until Friday or Saturday this week. I’m really excited about this find. Morikawa-san has looked into the possibility of carrying this kit, but the manufacturer, a glider manufacturer called “Thermal Studio” lists it as “out of stock”. Now, why a maker of glider kits would make a traditional Japanese boat kit, I have no idea. I suspect it has something to do with the company’s close proximity to Tosa and the existence of a Tosa Traditional Japanese Boat Society.

I’m hoping he’ll be able to convince the manufacturer to produce the kit again. I’d love to be able to write up a magazine article on this one as it looks nicely detailed, very authentic, and at 1/10-scale, it’s just about 2 feet long – a nice size.

 

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In any case, I’m planning on starting a build log on Model Ship World, and with the NRG conference in San Diego next Fall and the possibility of Douglas Brooks doing another talk on Japanese traditional boats, this should fit in quite well there. Not to mention the fact that it will greatly enhance my Wasen Display in Japantown, San Francisco.

But, one of the things I’m really looking forward to is how it may help me further my understand of traditional Japanese boats given that this kit appears to be extremely authentic – more so than most of the Woody Joe kits in detail.

 

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Also, I’m interested because I’m doing the preliminary work for scratch building an Urayasu Bekabune, one of the boat documented by Douglas Brooks during his Japanese boatbuilding apprenticeships. While this is a much different boat, I see some design elements that may help me figure things out on the scratch project.

Finally, given the rarity of this kit, I’m probably not going to build it directly. Rather, I’m probably going to use it as a pattern to try scratch building a model from. Just from looking at the build logs and photos of the contents, I can see that this kit has some interesting design elements that I’m interested in.

For one thing, I believe this kit may be of a style that actual traditional Japanese boatbuilders would use to build models of their own work. For one thing, the scale, 1/10, is the same scale that the boatbuilders used when creating their plan drawings (traditionally drawn on a wooden plank). For another, from the photos, it appears that this kit might actually use the same kinds of woods used to build the actual boats. Specifically, it looks the the hull planks may actually be made from Sugi, or Japanese Cedar, while some parts like the stem and beams appear to be a lighter, creamier color, suggesting to me that they are made from Hinoki, or Japanese Cypress.

Of course, this is all just speculation based on photos. I’ll get a better idea when I see the kit, which should be very soon… I hope! Ω

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