Tag Archives: Kanrin Maru

Researching the Kanrin Maru – First Update

Research of the Kanrin Maru continues…

In mid-May, 2013, I receive a set of plans from the maritime museum in Rotterdam after more than 6-months of trying. It was a long process, and it ended up costing around $200 for the plans, bank transfer fees and “shipping,” which consisted of having digital copies uploaded to a file transfer site. But, I have them now. The plans are all digital copies and it took me a while to even understand the scale as the units were in Dutch. Also, I had to print out some of the drawings, adding to the total cost.

Kanrin Maru plans

Plans of the Bali and sister ship the Japan, which the Japanese renamed the Kanrin Maru.

One thing that was free was access to photos of a model of the Dutch ship Soembing in one of the Dutch museums. The Soembing was the ship that steamship that the Dutch first presented to the Shogun, becoming the Kanko Maru, Japan’s first steam warship. This one was a paddlewheeler launched in 1853 and the significance is in that she, like the Kanrin Maru, was Dutch built, and only a few years older than the Kanrin Maru. She had a similar rig to the Kanrin Maru, but the question for me is how similar? The Soembing also gives an example of Dutch naval cannon, providing a better idea of how the Kanrin Maru was armed. Continue reading


Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery… I Guess.

Russian Website Plagiarism?

I was doing some more research on the Kanrin Maru today. It looks a chance I may be able to get some support for building a model of the ship for a museum in the area. It’s still up in the air and may not happen, but that’s for another discussion.

Today, I was trying to recall certain details of the kit manufactured by Woody Joe. Rather than dig through my notes, I decided to poke around on the Internet. I just happen to run across what appeared to be a kit review… in Russian. It was all in another language, yet something looked REALLY familiar about it. Somehow, it reminded me in overall appearance like something I would have done, only it was in Russian and the photos were clearly not mine. But, the composition of the photos and choice of photos seemed oddly familiar.

Enter Bing Translator, or Google Translator if you prefer. I started going over the translated text. It was definitely different that anything I’d written… sort of. I mean, it talked about how Woody Joe kits weren’t directly marketed to the Russian market and how Russian ship modelers were familiar with Western ship modeling and this was something new and different.

As I went through the article, I realized that it was essentially an article I’d written last year. I had to dig up a copy of the article since I couldn’t be sure at first, but when I pulled it up and read translations, it was clear the Russian website completely plagiarized the work I did for Ships in Scale. It was amazing to me that anyone would do that. It’s just beyond my realm of thinking.

Clearly, the “writer” – wait, does a plagiarist qualify to be referred to as a writer? Perhaps he should be called… well, it doesn’t really matter what he’s called. He did bother to change some of the work to fit his needs and he did emphasize different information on the ship in their kit review, but it was clearly a copy job.

I guess that’s a good sign that my writing and organization is acceptable, if someone likes it enough to use as the core of their own article.

And, it doesn’t make me mad all, it just really surprises me to see that someone would do that. Anyway, I got paid for my article, so what do I care?

If you’re interested, you can check it out here:


I actually love that the author even went so far as to copy the general composition of the photo of my finger pointing through a page of Japanese instructions.

I can’t wait to see my next work in Russian!

It’s March 17th – Happy Kanrin Maru Day!

While most people who celebrate today are drinking green beer and thinking Irish thoughts, today is also the anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese government ship to visit the United States. It was on March 17, 1860 that the Japanese screw steamer Kanrin Maru arrived at San Francisco as an escort for Japan’s first embassy to the United States aboard the USS Powhatan. For the 150th anniversary celebration, the mayor of San Francisco declared March 17th to be Kanrin Maru day. I don’t suppose there is a lot of celebrating of the event in the city, or anywhere else for that matter. So, I’ll just do that on my own.

But, for those interested, the journey of the Kanrin Maru is pretty interesting, and involves many important historical personalities for both Japan and the United States. The captain of the Kanrin Maru, Katsu Kaishu, is considered the father of the Japanese Navy and is later  instrumental in his involvement with the transfer of power from the Shogun, the military ruler of Japan, to the Emperor. One of the crew members was Yukichi Fukuzawa who later founded the prestigious Keio University, one of Japan’s oldest institutes of eduction. Another was Manjiro Nakahama, also known to many Americans at the time as John Manjiro, who’s own story of shipwreck, rescue by an American whaler, life in the United States, and eventual return to Japan, is an adventure known to many. Then, there was then Lieutenant John Mercer Brooke, who with the help of a handful of his sailors, helped the Kanrin Maru survive a treacherous Pacific crossing, and who went on to become instrumental in the creation of the Transatlantic Cable, and in the development of a new rifled cannon known as the Brooke Rifle.

Here is some interesting reading I’ve run across:

As We Saw Them, the First Japanese Embassy, to the United States by Masao Miyoshi

John M. Brooke’s Pacific Cruise and Japanese Adventure, by George M. Brooke, Jr.

Manjiro, the Man Who Discovered America, by Hisakazu Kaneko


And a link to my previous Kanrin Maru Day post: My Kanrin Maru Day

Researching the Kanrin Maru

Researching this vessel has been slow going. I started off by digging through the Internet and this gave me various leads and some basic information about the ship. Wikipedia is always a good place to start. You can’t rely on the information that’s posted there, but it provides good leads and I got a few that were very useful, including the basic history of this ship and the fact that it was Dutch built.

Being that there was a recent celebration of the Kanrin Maru just a couple years ago, and I completely missed out on that one since it was before I became seriously interested in the ship, I started following links and contacted people associated with the events. Unfortunately, once the celebration was over, those links quickly led to dead ends. Emails to people associated with the events provided a little support, but very little information. Even a call to the Japanese Consulate in San Francisco got me nowhere.

The most difficult part of researching the Kanrin Maru was the fact that she was a Japanese vessel and all Japanese resources were only available in Japanese. Also, the Japanese maritime museums don’t seem to have the same kinds of public links for researchers that Western museums do.

I sought out some help from the ship modeling community by contacting the Ship Modeller’s Association in Fullerton which has members in Japan and also the Nautical Research Guild, which again has members in Japan, but I could get no replies from their contacts. A direct attempt to contact the Japanese ship model society called The Rope, also yielded nothing.

Woody Joe Model

Digging around the Internet a little more, I did find that an old company in Japan, Imai, had made a large wooden model kit of the Kanrin Maru. Their kits are apparently now made by a company called Woody Joe, which I’ve posted about before. I contacted them hoping to find someone who knew some English and I did manage to get a response from someone who directed me to a company that sells their kits internationally.


Figuring that this was my best hope for learning about the ship, I saved up for the updated and slightly smaller kit, and bought it from Japan. The kit is a 1/75 scale wooden model that I’ll probably post a review about later. Anyway, this at least gets me a leg up on building a model of the ship, though I’m not sure how accurately. Still, it’s a place to start.

Dutch Maritime Museums

Meanwhile, I took the information about the ship having been built by the Dutch and did a search of maritime museums in the Netherlands. Navigating some pages that were only in Dutch, I did find a couple images of plans and I proceeded to ask how I could obtain copies. I was referred to another museum where the plans collection was kept and to their web site where I began a new request for information.

This all took place around November/December of 2012. I got a reply back from the maritime museum in Rotterdam pretty quickly and they seemed very supportive and willing to help. That is, before I had replied and cleared up the name confusion and let them know I was not a woman, but in fact a man named Clare. After this, I couldn’t get a response from them for about 3 months. After several email attempts in different forms, I finally researched enough Dutch phrases online that I place an international call from across the globe to find out what was going on. After explaining that he was just really busy, the process of obtaining plans got on track again about 4 weeks later.

It is now May and while I still don’t have the plans,  they have been paid for (after two visits to the bank, some online research, and spending an hour at my bank trying to get an international wire transfer in Euros to The Netherlands) and I’m confident that I’ll have them shortly.

Recently, my attentions turned to other leads from Wikipedia, specifically the Journals of John Brooke, who sailed as an advisor aboard the Kanrin Maru on her voyage across the Pacific. A visit to the San Francisco Maritime Library had the book in my hot little hands and I spent an afternoon reading through his very enlightening notes. I won’t go through the details at this point, but I will say that this is very interesting reading, and probably one of the most useful sources of information I’ve found to date.

Since then, I’ve also perused through the Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa, who was one of the men who sailed aboard the Kanrin Maru on that same voyage. Some very interesting contradictions between these two accounts. But, more on that later as well.

To date, these are my sources of research on the Kanrin Maru:

  • Japanese Warship Kanrin Maru, Wikipedia
  • John M. Brooke’s Pacific Cruise and Japanese Adventure, 1858-1860, by John M. Brooke and George M. Brooke.
  • John M. Brooke, Naval Scientist and Educator, by George M. Brooke, Jr.
  • As We Saw Them: The First Japanese Embassy to the United States, by Masao Miyoshi
  • The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa, by Yukichi Fukuzawa and E. Kiyooka
  • Z.M. Schroef-Schooner Bali / Japan (Kanrin Maru) plans from the Maritiem Museum Rotterdam

Link to the my follow-up post Researching the Kanrin Maru – First Update

My Kanrin Maru Day

Kanrin Maru Model

Officially March 17th is Kanrin Maru Day. On this day, in 1860, Japan’s first screw steamer warship arrived in San Francisco as part of a Japanese expedition to bring the first Japanese embassy to the United States. In San Francisco in 2010, then San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom declared March 17th to be Kanrin Maru Day.

I’m sure those of Irish decent weren’t too happy about having St. Patrick’s Day usurped. But, hey it happens – it also happens to be my late dad’s birthday. So, I can drink a sake and green beer toast to my dear departed dad on that day.

But, for me, today is my Kanrin Maru Day. I’ve spent much time over the past several months trying to dig up information on the ship and its voyage. Today, I spent the afternoon reading journal entries written by John M. Brooke who was a U.S. Navy Lieutenant assigned job of technical advisor on board the Karin Maru during that first Pacific Voyage. The text that contained his journal entries was very enlightening and gave me a tremendous insight on the ship and the voyage. More on this at a later date.

But, the big news is that I’ve received the first of a set of plans of the ship and this after trying for 4 months to acquire them. With the help of a few clues found in a Wikipedia entry on the Kanrin Maru, I managed to track down some plans after a few weeks of Internet searching and more than a few emails to foreign museums, the Japanese consulate in San Francisco, and others.

Kanrin Maru plans

The Kanrin Maru was a screw steam corvette of 10 guns. She was rigged as a bark, but with trysails like a schooner. She was built by the Dutch for the Japanese government who ordered the ship a few short years after Perry forced Japan to open trade.

The ship carried a little over 30 tons of coal, and at a rate of about 5 tons burn per day, she could only steam for about six days, making her primarily a sailing ship.

On her voyage to the United States, she was commanded by Katsu Kaishu, a highly respected individual among the Japanese, even today. She had a crew of about 100, and had the assistance of Lt. John M. Brooke (who would later be know as a Confederate officer and developer of the Naval gun known as the Brooke Rifle) and the 10 best men who were under his command aboard the USS Fenimore Cooer.

More about the Kanrin Maru research, model construction plan and Japanese ship model kit later.