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1/10-scale Japanese Fishing Boat kit from Thermal Studios


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Okay, I just had to share about this. I've seen this blog before that features a 1/10-scale traditional 20 foot long Japanese fishing boat from southern Japan. This looks like an awesome model and when I first ran across this blog, I was sad to discover that the kit is apparently out of production:




Then, today, Kazunori Morikawa of zootoyz.jp posted the link on his Facebook page. I saw this and just HAD to take another look to see if I could find the kit. I went onto Amazon.co.jp and THERE IT WAS! Only 1 available. At around $140, it was a lot cheaper than other projects I've been spending money on, so I grabbed it up. I have someone in Japan who can ship it to me so I had it shipped there. I hope to have it in my hot little hands in less than 2 weeks.


This kit is not a Woody Joe kit, but Woody Joe's Hacchoro and Yakatabune kits are probably most similar to it. This kit is rare enough that I may just have to build a copy of it from scratch and keep the original intact.




Here is another Japanese blog site with a few photos of a finished model:




I'll definitely have to start a build log for this one if all works out. I'll report back later!



Edited by catopower
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Thanks everyone. I'm anxious to start a build log, but I should probably wait until I actually have the kit in hand!


So, in the meantime, I found another blog with photos of a finished model that looks really nice:




If you have trouble connecting, or just don't feel like visiting the site, here's a photo from it:





What I really like about this kit is the scale. It's not just that 1/10 is a big scale. It's also the same scale that traditional Japanese boat builders generally use for drawing their plans. Apparently, these are usually drawn on planks of wood and only show the bare minimum information necessary, which is less than what we're used to. 


I've been in communication with Douglas Brooks and I should make an attempt to scratch build a traditional Japanese boat, but this will help me get a better sense of how they go together. I have to say also that the Woody Joe kits I've built have definitely helped me develop a better understanding of Japanese traditional construction. Even though the kits aren't built in the same manner, the overall design is more apparent to me now.


In fact, I'm feeling like I'm almost able to build one of the complicated coastal transports from scratch. I see at least an attempt on the horizon... okay, it's a pretty distant horizon.


Time for me to go back and imagine where the kit might be in its transit!




Edited by catopower
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Happy Thanksgiving All! 


Unfortunately, that means there's no mail service today and I just checked tracking and the kit just passed through US customs in neighboring San Francisco yesterday. It's so close I can taste it! It's a little like chicken... 


Well, I should have it by Saturday anyway. So, I'll just have to be patient.


For anyone as anxious to see more, as I am, here are a couple of the photos from the Amazon-Japan listing I ordered from:








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Well, the kit showed up on Friday, wouldn't you know it! I wasn't home and it was shipped via EMS, a fast Asian shipping service that requires signature, so I had wait until Saturday to go pick it up at the post. But, I now am in possession of the kit and it looks great!


I'll start a build log on it immediately, starting with an overview of the kit.


Thanks all,


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Actually, it makes more sense for me to review the kit here so it's not mixed in with the build itself.



The kit is not all that heavy, about 1-1/2 pounds, but it's in a long box. I think this kicked the shipping cost up a bit, which was just about $30. Still, a ship model kit, particularly one this rare, for around $170 total, is not bad. That's just about what I paid for the Woody Joe Hacchoro and the Yakatabune kits I bought from Zootoyz.






Having ordered through Amazon Japan, the only seller of the kit did not ship internationally, so I had it sent to someone that then re-shipped it for me from Japan and they didn't charge me any service fees. He's done this twice for me and I don't want to impose on him any further. There are companies specifically set up to forward packages from Japan. I just finished setting up an account with one called Tenso.com. Next time, I'll try them out.


By the way, it looks like I may have been wrong about this kit being out of production. I thought it was no longer manufactured because the company that makes it, Thermal Studios, primarily makes large model glider kits and doesn't list the Tosa Wasen kit at all. However, I emailed them about it and if we understood each other correctly, they produce the kit. Perhaps it's more of a local item since they are apparently close to Tosa, Japan, and seem to have some kind of connection with the Tosa Traditional Boat Society.






The kit itself is basically made up entirely of several laser cut sheets, plus a small bag with various kinds of parts, some other separate laser cut and milled wooden parts, instruction booklet, plan sheet, and even a sanding block.






The laser cut sheets are made from Sugi (that's "Sue" plus "Gee" with a hard "G") or Japanese cedar, just like the real Tosa boats. Sugi is aromatic, though not as strong scented as Hinoki used in so many Woody Joe kits. The parts are laser etched with Japanese characters to identify them. This makes locating parts a little more time consuming than if they were numbered. But, I guess it's just a matter of pattern matching.






The bag of parts contains all the milled wood parts, all short pieces. Also in the parts bag is the metal anchor, the anchor rope, metal rings and fastener. The kit also includes a roll of yellow hobby masking tape, and for some reason, some plastic applicator tips used for applying CA glue.





As expected, the instruction booklet is all in Japanese. The black and white printed book is 26 pages long and includes a parts diagram on the back cover, showing all the laser cut parts on their sheets. The diagram is pretty small and you really need a magnifying glass to read it. But, magnified, the part identifiers all appear to be readable. Instructions are divided up into 41 steps, with each step being clearly illustrated and each looking to be pretty simple steps.






Time will tell if the Japanese text printed in the booklet is really necessary or if the model can be build solely by the drawings. But, in addition to the booklet, there is also on large plan sheet that gives a nice overview of the boat at full scale, which, by the way, is 1/10 scale.






Overall, this looks like a really nice kit and it's not that expensive. An additional bonus is that the  manufacturer, Thermal Studios, created a blog showing photos of the construction steps. This is really nice because it reinforces the written/printed instructions, giving you another view of the steps. Also, using Bing or Google translators, you can view the blog pages in English (or whatever your native language). This isn't always that great, as the translation can be pretty questionable, but it often helps.


Thermal Studio's Building a Wasen Blog



Having attended Douglas Brooks' talk at the NRG conference this past October, and having been reading through his book on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, I can say that this kit looks very authentic and true to the way that the traditional Japanese shipwrights would have actually constructed their boats.


This kit would make an ideal study project for someone who is interested in following the work described in Mr. Brooks' book. Personally, I've been planning on scratch building the Urayasu Bekabune that he discussesin his book. I think that building this kit first will help me a long ways towards understanding Japanese boatbuilding so that I can eventually attempt that scratch project.




Edited by catopower
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  • 5 weeks later...

I posted this in my build log, but it makes sense to put the info here too.


Buying the Tosa Wasen Kit


If you're looking to buy the kit, there is a faster, less expensive method than trying to get it through Amazon-Japan where I got mine. I found out that you can buy it from the manufacturer for a very good price. To buy from the manufacturer,  send an email to the company: info@thermal-kobo.jp.


Price for the kit is 13,000 Yen

Shipping is via EMS (A Chinese Express Mail Service that ends with a USPS delivery) for 2,400 Yen

Payment has to be via Paypal, sending to the email address above.


This is a really good price. Makes the whole thing with express shipping only about $130. I went ahead and ordered a second kit.


The only thing that I'm not so sure about is that the kit is shipped in its own box, but wrapped with a bubblewrap bag. It's a long box, so it seems like it would be easy to bend in half. But, I received the first kit this way and it was delivered just fine. Then again, I generally have good experiences with the US Postal Service here.


It looks like I might have been their first international sale as the owner posted a picture of the kit shipping out to the USA on their Facebook page. I hope he sells a lot of kits!




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  • 2 weeks later...



Actually, some of what was recorded by Pâris seems very good . What kind of craft are you looking for? 


Douglas Brooks has a few drawings of small boats in his book. You might also try contacting him about more comprehensive plans of the watercraft he studied. You can contact him through his website at http://www.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com.


Beyond that, I doubt you'll find much. Japanese boatbuilding traditions didn't include the use of plans the way we're accustomed to in western traditions. Also, I don't think there's a great deal of interest in preserving this kind of information in modern Japanese society, except among a small handful of people.




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I was not looking for anything in particular. I am interested in 'vernacular' or 'indigeneous' boatbuilding and noticed that not much seems to be available, at least in western languages. I have seen some scholarly studies on ancient Japanese craft, but not really anything on say the mid-19th (after the Japanese opening) to mid-20th (WW2) period.


The link to Douglas Brooks is very interesting, thanks a lot !


I also noticed quite a few more models of Japanes boats in your 'recent builds' list. Are these somewhere on the Internet ?

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  • 3 months later...

Hi Clare,


Thank you for this post on the Tosa Wasen kit. I just sent an email asking to order one, hopefully it will get through. I've been scouring the blog and downloading as many build pics as I can and have almost 200 so far. Don't know if anyone has been to this link but there are five pages with some interesting pics.




Second pic down shows Douglas Brooks with ?


Enjoy, Mark

Edited by mwb
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Hi Mark,


I'm glad to hear that you're getting the kit. I'm only just starting to hear from people who are buying the kit. You're the second person in a week that I've heard from. FYI, the other person tried emailing info@thermal-kobo.jp and waited a week with no reply, so he emailed shop@thermal-kobo.jp and got a reply within 24 hours.


Here's his post on Model Space: http://forum.us.model-space.com/default.aspx?g=posts&m=189319post189319


The link you provided didn't work for me, but this did http://thermal2.exblog.jp/i65/  without the 1// at the end.


If this is the page you're referring to, that's Douglas Brooks sitting next to Masaki Tanimura, who runs Thermal Studio. Douglas had mentioned seeing the Tosa Wasen model, a few years ago, but didn't remember any details about it. I know he stopped in Kochi City a few years back and stayed overnight with a friend who created the drawings that the kit is based on. I think this photo is from that visit.


Looking forward to seeing your build log!



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Thanks Wefalk,


I actually saw the cover in the last issue of the Nautical Research Journal, so I visited that website and ordered a copy. It took me a while to translate from French, but found it an interesting Part I. I'm looking forward to the other parts of the series.


One thing that wasn't clear to me was the name of the author. Do you know who wrote it? 



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