Category Archives: Research

Making an American Flag using Adobe Illustrator

I’ve been taking a little time off of work since I’ve been actually pretty productive with ship modeling and other personal tasks. So, today, I finally decided to tackle the issue to making a flag for the American Gunboat model that I’ve been working on.

My Amati American gunboat model, nearly finished, but in need of a flag

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New Book on HMS Terror by Matthew Betts

I was quite surprised yesterday when I saw that there was a new book available on the Arctic (and Antarctic) exploration ship HMS Terror of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. What’s more this is a book by Matthew Betts whose research, posted in his blog,, has been used in the development of OcCre Model’s wooden ship model kit, in the development of the AMC miniseries The Terror, and more.

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New Glossary of Japanese Terms Added

For those studying traditional Japanese boats, you might find this helpful in your research.

Wasen Mokei 和船模型

I’ve just updated the Wasen Modeler site’s Resources menu and added a new glossary of Japanese boat types of terms. This is definitely a work in progress. As much as anything, it’s a place for me to store my notes. But, it’s publicly accessible to you.

I’ve included the opening text for the page in the text below…

This is a list of terms relating to traditional Japanese boats, or wasen, that I’ve collected in my notes. This is not even close to being a comprehensive list, and the descriptions given are really quite basic. I’ve compiled this list from my own studies, and with the help of many others who are more knowledgeable than myself.

Yubune 湯船 - a bath boat from the Edo period. Yubune 湯船 – a bath boat from the Edo period.

Sources of information include the book Funakagami, books I’ve collected by Professor Kenji Ishii, the works of Douglas Brooks, information parsed from the Internet, and…

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Funakagami – A PDF Book on Japanese Boat Types

As I’m preparing for my study trip to Japan in, I’ve been checking on museum websites and such. The Maritime Science Museum is closed, except for a small museum annex, their website still lists the museum publications.

I don’t see any place to actually purchase these, but there are a couple books that you can download as a pdf. The one that immediately caught my interest had a number of Edo period boats on the cover. So, I immediately downloaded it and started looking through it.

Funakagami cover

Funakagami cover

I’m still working to understand the text, but the first part of the book is mostly old illustrations. Apparently, this is taken from a book called a Funekan, which was used by the Bakufu, or Shogunate government, to aid in identifying the many types of small boats on the rivers of the Kanto district, which is the region of old Edo (Tokyo) and its surroundings. The identification was necessary for taxation purposes.

Such a book is a boon to anyone who is trying to learn about different types of Japanese boats. There is little information about the boats themselves, but there is a nice large illustration of each boat type, and an index which classifies the boat. In the back of the book is a section which identifies the names of the parts of each boat. In the end, the text gets very meaty with, as far as I can tell, discussion about taxes, etc.

The book can not be printed as it is a password protected pdf. But, I discovered I can still copy text and take screen shots of the images to compile into my own notes. The copied text can be pasted into Google Translate or similar service. I’ve found that the translation is sometimes not as useful as the pronunciation/romaji spelling that is shown – For those who are familiar with Google Translator, just look under the box on the left, which is where you paste in the original text.

Click here to download the pdf

For me, the book has confirmed things I’ve already learned, taught me a number of new things, allowed me to see things I’d only read about, and raised a number of questions that I will be researching answers to.

Hope you find this helpful or at least entertaining. Ω

Japanese Boats Display in Japantown (v 4.0)

Last week, I spent an entire afternoon in San Francisco setting up my latest display of models of Japanese traditional boats in the Japan Center Mall in San Francisco. This is the largest display I’ve done, which is now up to 5 models. It’s probably about as large as it will get as I can’t imagine that I can possibly cram any more into my car. And, given that I live about an hour’s drive outside the city (or two hours in bad traffic), I’m not likely going to be making two trips to set it up. But, the size is actually pretty good now.

Since I’m doing some fundraising to go to Japan this Fall to do some more first-hand research on Japanese watercraft (don’t forget to check out my gofundme page), I’m taking the opportunity to really get some attention for this display. As with those people involved in the fine arts, I’ve made up an announcement card that I’m having printed up that I will be sending to various friends and people that  I think will be interested in it and possibly interested in helping me out (as well as those who have already done so). In addition, I’ve made a simple email announcement photo that I’ve been sending to people.

Announcement Emailer L plus

My email announcement card

If you’re already familiar with the last couple displays, you will see two new models added, a simple Japanese traditional boat shop display and the Tosa wasen model. Both are a nice, big 1/10 scale, so the details are better for a window display like this.


The 1/10-scale Tosa Wasen is the newest boat model added to the display.


This is my simple model of an Urayasu boat workshop, showing some of the aspects of traditional Japanese boatbuilding. Under construction is a Bekabune, a seaweed gathering boat that was once used on Tokyo Bay. The model still needs a few additions – a work in progress.


The Hacchoro and the Urayasu boat workshop with their scale boatmen silhouettes. The Hacchoro is one of the boats I will be focussing my attention on while researching in Japan this Fall.

You may notice in that display window photos that I’ve created little silhouette boatmen to provide scale reference for each model. This was a last minute effort, though I’ve been thinking about it for months. I finally sat down and scoured the Internet and found photos of boatmen dressed in traditional outfits on someone’s blog photos. I took the best one and did some Photoshop work to turn him into a silhouette, which I scaled to the needed sizes, printed them, and mounted them on cardboard.

There are, of course, things to do differently next time, which I’ve already noted. The boat workshop display should probably be on some kind of a riser, like the other models, there is enough room to put up another large, hanging photo board, and there’s room for at least one more model, using the tall stand I introduced in this display. I suppose I could consider staggering them a little too.

That tall stand, by the way, is actually a better stand for me to use because it’s simple two boards hinged together. This makes them foldable and they take up a lot less space in my car. I’m seriously thinking about replacing the box pedestals on the other models with short folding stands, which would allow me to carry more stuff in my car. And, actually, if I build models without sails, I might be able to fit one or two more in that car. Of course, that means building more models and I’m pretty far behind on other projects as it is. We’ll see… Ω


Funding a Japanese Traditional Boats Research Trip 2016

Help Fund My Japan Research Trip

Well, it’s official. I’m making a trip to Japan in early September to do some hands-on research. I’ve been running into something of a dead-end on what I can learn here in the U.S., and one evening I was poking around on at airfares to Japan and found a deal that was too good to pass up.


Boats at the Toba Seafolk Museum

Of course, I can’t forget the fact that I can’t really afford to go, but I had to jump on it to secure the deal. So, for the first time ever, I’m going into fundraising mode – I’m selling off a few things I really don’t need, going into frugal spending mode at home, making a deal on one of my models, and so on.


A Hobikisen on Lake Kasumigaura

In addition, I’ve opened up a gofundme campaign, which is an online fundraising site. So, if you’d like to help out and have the means to do so, then please consider a donation of $5 or more. The details of the fundraising campaign including a breakdown of trip expenses is listed on the gofundme site. I feel a bit awkward putting out a fundraising request to allow me to do something I really want to do. But, without doing some fundraising it’s going to be tough to make it all happen. The more fully funded the trip, the more of my target locations I can get to and spend time at.

It’s going to be a short trip, I’ll arrive at Haneda Airport around 5:00 AM on September 5th and leave for home at 1:30 AM on September 13. That gives me 8 days in Japan to get where I need to go. I’m still working on an itinerary, but the two most important locations are the Toba Seafolk Museum and the Ogi Folk Museum on Sado Island. There are a number of smaller stops including working out a stop in Yaizu if I can arrange to meet with one or more of the people involved with the Hacchoro traditional wooden boats. Also, as a ship modeler, there is of course a planned stop to visit the folks at Woody Joe and learn about their operation.

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A Tosa Wasen

There are numerous historical resources in the greater Tokyo area including the Edo Tokyo Museum, a small boat museum in Urayasu, and the Fukugara Edo Museum.

A big destination would be the Michinoku Boat Museum up in Aomori, but that has apparently closed and the replica Kitamaesen called the Michinoku Maru is moored and not open to the public. But I’m told the Toba museum and the Ogi museums are both very nice and have good collections and I should be able to collect a lot of information from those two destinations alone.

In any case, I will be posting updates while in Japan to keep readers here up to date on the work I’ll be doing there. In addition, I expect to be taking tremendous quantities of photos and collecting as much information as I can for ship modeling purposes. I also hope to meet up with a few people in Japan that I’ve been corresponding with regarding ship modeling and Japanese traditional boats.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it all the over to the Tosa area on Shikoku Island where I’ve made a couple really great contacts regarding the small traditional wooden boats that are still being built and used regularly. There’s just not enough time, unless by some miracle, I get enough funding to extend my stay there. But, that’s very doubtful.


A Hacchoro under sail

It will be a very short and very busy trip, but I expect the information I collect to give me enough material to help me with a couple magazine articles I’ve been considering and maybe others I hadn’t thought about before. Also, I will share information here and elsewhere. Perhaps it will provide enough material do do a nice talk or write a book?

The link to my gofundme campaign is:

Thank you for any support you can provide, even if it’s just moral support! And, please be sure to pass this request along to anyone you think may be interested in supporting this work. Ω