Hobikisen, Japanese Fishing Boat


Those interested in Japanese style boats should check out the website of American boatbuilder Douglas Brooks, who has studied  in Japan and apprenticed with five traditional Japanese boat builders and has written articles and one book on the subject.

To purchase a kit, I recommend the Japanese international hobby dealer Zootoyz. Be aware that the instructions are written completely in Japanese. But, there is heavy use of illustration, and it is a very simple kit. For more information visit the build notes on my blog site.

Hobikisen, Japanese Fishing Boat

The Hobikisen (Ho-Bee-Key-Sen) is a type of fishing boat employed on Lake Kasumigaura, which is about 50 miles northeast of Tokyo. It employs a fishing system developed by an inventor named Ryohei Orimoto. Though he was not a fisherman himself, he devoted himself to the invention and improvement of tools for agriculture, and in 1880, he developed a method of side-ways propulsion to drag fishing nets through the water.

With the sail mounted in a fixed position at the side of the boat, the wind would push the boat sideways across the lake. Meanwhile, fishing net lines attached to top and bottom of the sail, which kept the boat from tipping. The sail would pull the nets directly and drag the boat slowly across the lake. This development simplified the task of fishing and reduced the number of fisherman needed to pull in the catch. It also led to the fishermen being paid for the amount of their catch instead of a simple daily wage, allowing them to make a better living.

Today, Hobikisen still sail on Lake Kasumigaura, but mostly for the benefit of sightseeing tourists. Information about these boats that can be found on the website for the City of Kasumigaura. There is a link specifically to the Hobikisen section in English here. What’s particularly interesting is the information on how these boats are built. Here is a quick link to that part of the website.

About the Model

The model itself was built from a kit by Woody Joe of Japan. The kit, was released in the Fall of 2014. As with other Woody Joe products, it is not marketed outside Japan, so it a very rare model in the United States. It is roughly a 1:55-scale model, so a person would be just over 1” tall.

This is designed to be a very quick build “Mini Kit”, so it is light on detail. The parts are laser cut from Japanese Cypress or Hinoki, which is a very light, aromatic wood. I embellished on a couple simple details including rope fastenings to hold down the bowsprit and stern pole. Also, I added the rope to which the sheets of the sail are tied. This is in keeping with the actual practice of the rig of these ships.

Because this is intended to be a simple model and quick to build, and because it is so small, there are many details that I chose not to add, in keeping with the design of the kit. But partly, this is due to my lack of experience with the construction of traditional Japanese boats, something I am working now to better understand.

The Hobikisen is a type of small sailboat used on Lake Kasumigaura. It features an unusual sail arrangement developed by a local inventor (not a fisherman).

This is built from a simple to build “Mini-Kit” produced by Woody Joe of Japan. The finished model measures just about  10” high and 11” long.