Kitamae Shipping—Three

This votive panel shows a Kitamae ship dating from the late nineteenth-century of about 150 tons and with a crew of between 10 to 20.  It also has a jib and spinnaker, which may have been added as a result of influence from the West. Courtesy of Mr. Okizaki Photo © Copyright.
How was the ride?
There is no keel.  In fact at the time the authorities would not allow the ships to be built with a keel.  Would the ship have rolled much?  My senses say “yes” and the notoriously rough waters of the the Japan Sea would not have helped.  As it happens many ships would avoid sailing between November and the following March, when the sea could be very rough, the winds strong and conditions were made worst by heavy falls of snow.  Even today the railway routes along the Japan Sea coast are often the first to suffer delays if not stoppages during the harsh weather conditions of the winter months.

Any other disadvantages were overcome with ingenuity and were at least managed if not actually turned to advantages.  The large ships were anchored off shore and sometimes moored to the coast at hewn mooring holes.  Here is one found by Mr. Okizaki. (Mr. Okizaki Photo © Copyright. As mentioned before cargos were off-loaded into smaller boats and rowed through channels to the shallows of the bays where the beaches became “ports”.

An example of a thirteenth-century ship with a facility to have boards beyond the gunwales.  Illustration from Nihon no Fune (Ships and Boats of Japan) published by Fune no Kagaku-kan (Museum of Maritime Science, Tokyo) in 1977.
Incidentally my own studies of traditional architecture have a connection with the Kitamae ships.  The bracketing system at first-floor level or for eaves of some traditional buildings is know as segai-zukuri.  (In the UK extensions of upper floors are known as jetting.)  Although the characters were probably cobbled together at some point in history, they alluded to the way that a boat can be “enlarged” to carry more cargo and yet can still be rowed.  In the simplest method beams are laid across the hull and boards are placed beyond the gunwales.  The Kitamae ship also had decks slightly wider than the hulls, thus making the most of the opportunity of carrying more cargo with an acceptable—I assume—increase in risk of making the ship top heavy.  A marvel of marine engineering then.

An example from a thirteenth-century painting of what is possibly an inland water boat with segai beams and boards.  Note the seated figure beyond the gunwales.  Illustration from Nihon no Fune (Ships and Boats of Japan) published by Fune no Kagaku-kan (Museum of Maritime Science, Tokyo) in 1977.
Examples of eave and first floor segai arrangements for a variety of different traditional building types.  Illustration from Masters Degree Thesis on Segai, Bill Tingey 1980

If you should want to know more about the ships, there is a wealth of information on the Web.  Search Kitamae ships.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright unless stated otherwise

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