15-Foot Hozugawa Ayubune, Japanese River Boat


15尺 Hozugawa Ayubune

The Hozugawa Ayubune is a fishing boat used on the Hozu river, which runs from the city of Kameoka in the mountains, down to the southeast to Kyōto. The size of the boats generally range from 15 to 24 feet long. This relatively simple design is sometimes referred to as an Ayubune, named for a popular type of small fish called Ayu.

The largest of these boats measured close to 40 feet long and was used to carry goods and people down the river rapids to Kyōto. These large downriver boats, or kudari bune, became popular around the end of the 19the century for sightseeing down the scenic river. The company that operates the kudari boat tours has operated for more than 100 years, though their boats are now made with fiberglass hulls that retain the shape of the old wooden boats.

The smaller Ayubune are propelled using a sao, a long pole. The large kudari boats have a large steering oar aft, one or two oars on the starboard side, and a boatman at the bow with a sao.

The Model

My 15尺 Hozugawa Ayubune (a shaku is just about one foot long) is based on drawings, measurements and photos provided by Douglas Brooks, who visited the area and built a similar full-sized boat in 2014. As the model is based on Mr. Brooks’s reconstruction, it bears some of the same design characteristics.

One of these is the hull bottom, which is made from 3 wide planks. In actuality, the old Hozugawa boats were built using narrow planks to facilitate the replacement of damaged planks. This was necessary due to the rocky nature of the river’s many rapids.

The Hozugawa Ayubune was one of the first scratch-built Japanese boat models I completed. Though I’d started other scratch-built subjects earlier, this boat’s simple design was easier to understand and complete.

The model is made from sugi, or Japanese cedar, a soft and very aromatic wood that I can only obtain through a contact in Japan. It features mortises in the hull and bottom planks that are cut and plugged. On the full-sized boats, these hide the long, flat, iron nails used to edge-fasten the planks together.

I equipped my model with a sao and a bailer.

This 15-foot boat was used for fishing on the Hozu river, which flows down from the mountains to the northwest of Kyōto.

Mine is a 1/10-scale wooden model built from scratch using drawings and measures provided by Douglas Brooks.

The model is made from sugi, or Japanese cedar, and measures a little over 18” long.