Tag Archives: Edo Period

The Making of a Man (in 1/20 Scale)

Working with my Japanese boat models, after the tenth or twelfth model, I’ve felt that there’s now something missing. I enjoy modeling traditional Japanese boats, but up to now, there hasn’t been much context. So, I started experimenting with making cargo, which is a relatively easy, if not somewhat tedious, task. But, I’ve always felt that the cargo was just one step towards giving the models a better sense of what they were and how they were used. What the boats really needed were one or more figures, to give them a sense sense of scale, and a sense of the place and time when they were in their heyday.

Kawasaki: The Rokugō Ferry, from Hiroshige’s Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō

Mitsuke: The Tenryū River, from Hiroshige’s Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō

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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

Woody Joe’s Yakatabune – Completed

Tonight, I’m happy to report that my 1/24-scale Yakatabune model is finished. The kit was from the Japanese kit manufacturer Woody Joe and compliments my 1/72-scale Higaki Kaisen and 1/24-scale Hacchoro models. If you are a member of Model Ship World, you might have followed the progress of the build over the last few months.


It wasn’t a difficult model to build, but I ended up adding some extra details that took me a little while to figure out. I am still planning to provide interior lighting, but need to figure out how to properly make a couple large hanging lamps. Once I get that figured out, I’ll remove the deck house and its roof and install the wiring, which I made room for.



The model was pretty much built straight from the kit, though I did make a few simple modifications, most of which deal with color/paint scheme. The wood color comes from the use of wood dyes that I mixed to my own liking. The paint scheme is based on classic Japanese paintings of Yakatabune from the Edo Period.

The kit included a very rudimentary interior, providing a simulated tatami room floor with table. So, added a few items of my own like zabuton seating cushions, and shamisen – a 3-string musical instrument that I play.

IMG_1489 IMG_1495 IMG_1497

Version 3

Right now, you can’t see much of the interior because it’s dark inside with the roof on. However, I did make the roof removable, and may display it that way. In the future, I hope to have a few sake cups out on the table too!

Other small changes were that I increased the length of the Ro slightly (the long sculling oar), reduced the size of the rudder, and added a simulated bamboo pole, which sits on the starboard side. The pole would have been used by the boatman to navigate the boat near the shore.



As I’m sure I mentioned before, Woody Joe’s is an excellent kit that’s not officially marketed in the U.S. The instructions are in Japanese, but they are very well illustrated. If you want to buy the kit, I recommend shopping at Zootoyz.jp. It’s about $170 shipped. Ω

Woody Joe’s Yakatabune Kit – New Build Log on MSW

For those interested in following the build of Woody Joe’s 1/24-scale Yakatabune kit, I decided to go ahead and start one on The NRG’s Model Ship World. For those who don’t know, the Yakatabune is a traditional Japanese pleasure boat used on lakes and rivers. They could be hired for a day or evening, allowing a group of passengers to enjoy the gentle rocking of the boat, the sites along the water, view the cherry blossoms, and as a place to simply gather, bring along hired entertainment, drink sake, or whatever.


Here’s an image of a colorized photo I found on the Internet, though I don’t recall where now.

The 1/24-scale Woody Joe kit is available for around $170 shipped. I got mine from Zootoyz.jp. Woody Joe calls this a 50-hour build, and that may be pretty close. It’s not a difficult kit.


Visit the build log here: http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/10860-yakatabune-by-catopower-woody-joe-124-scale-small/ Note that you will note be able to see the images without joining Model Ship World and getting a free account. There is no advertising associated with this site and it is part of the Nautical Research Guild (NRG). There are also advantages in joining, as it grants you automatic associate NRG membership.


Woody Joe’s Hacchoro Kit Re-Release

In a matter of just over a week from now, Woody Joe will be officially re-releasing an updated version of their Edo Period “Wasen” (Traditional Japanese style boat) kit, Hacchoro (or Hattyouro). The kit went out of production for a short time as the updated release was prepared.


This is apparently a type of fishing boat that was adopted for service by the Tokugawa shogunate. At least, that’s what I think. I really haven’t done much homework on this craft yet, though I did find some Youtube videos of what look to be some local rowing competitions using these boats. They’re a lot bigger than I’d imagined. If you want to do a search, you’ll get better results using the Japanese text in your search: 八丁櫓

I don’t have a lot of details on this vessel except that it should now be laser cut and remains a scale of 1:24. The completed model should be about 23″ long, 20″ high, and 12-1/2″ wide. According to Woody Joe, this is a much simpler kit than the Higaki Kaisen and they estimate a 50 hour completion time.

Probably the most surprising change to the kit is the price. They have it listed for ¥18,000, about $180, where the old kit listed for ¥25,000, or about $250. That’s considerably less and I don’t know why yet. The kit looks the same and the completion time estimates are unchanged, so I’m not sure what’s different, if anything.

I asked Morikawa-san at Zootoyz about the kit and he said it will be in stock and on his website on June 8th. By the way, he has just set up an Amazon store for those preferring to buy through that site. Prices should be the same, but Amazon takes a cut of his revenue. I’m planning on buying the Hacchoro kit from his Amazon site so I can post a review of his service, which I’ve always found excellent.

In any case, as soon as I get the kit, I’ll post a review here. Should be up within a couple weeks.


Higaki-Kaisen from Woody Joe

A recent addition to the Woody Joe line of wooden ship model kits is the Japanese Edo period boat called Higaki-Kaisen (hee-gah-key kah-ee-sen). This was a cargo transport operated by the Higaki guild of Osaka. The boats of this guild were given the charter to ferry goods between Osaka and Edo (Called Toyko today). I don’t know when this particular boat showed up, but similar vessels were around throughout the Edo period, roughly 1600-1868.


At 1/72 scale, the Higaki-Kaisen model measures a bit over 16″ long and 16″ high. This one is particularly interesting as it includes interior detail. I haven’t seen the kit personally, but I’m told that the kit is of typical Woody Joe quality with lots of precision laser cut parts and well illustrated instructions. Fellow ship modeler Richard Rubinger, a professor of Japanese history, is currently working on the model and a provided a couple in-progress photos posted here with his permission.



While he reads Japanese, Richard comments that kit is so well illustrated and clear that you don’t actually need to read Japanese to be able to build this model. This has been my experience with Woody Joe’s Kanrin Maru kit too. But, I would recommend some ship model experience if you don’t read Japanese as these kits are quite pricey and you probably don’t want to be making your first ship modeling mistakes on them.

Also, unlike with many western companies, Woody Joe sells these kits as final products and does not provide after market support. If you lose or break a piece it’s pretty difficult to get a replacement. If something is actually missing, that may be another matter, but don’t expect anything close to Model Expo’s parts replacement guarantee – Another reason to have some building experience before trying this kit.

One more good thing about choosing this kit over the other Edo period Woody Joe kits is that this was is a fairly large boat but at a smaller scale than the other Edo period ship model kits put out by Woody Joe, so it’s much lighter. That means that shipping is notably cheaper.

Woody Joe does not market internationally, so you’ll have to go through an online hobby dealer. As always, I recommend Zootoyz in Japan. They provide good prices and fast service. To get right to the page with the Higaki-Kaisen kit, click here. Being the newest, the kit is the last one listed.

Here’s the product page from the Woody Joe website…


And here is a photo of the full sized replica at sail…


If you’re interested in learning more about this type of vessel, Kyushu University has a an english language page here. Ω