Kitamae-Bune (Kitamae Ships)

In April 2017, cultural properties in Akita City and other port cities on the route of Kitamae ships were designated Japan heritage by the National Agency of Cultural Affairs as “The Kitamae-bune Sea Routes: Ports and Residences Built on the Dreams of Brave Seafarers.” (In May 2018, cultural properties in 27 municipalities were added). From the 17th to the early 19th century, Kitamae-bune (Kitamae ships) on the Western Sea Route supported the Japanese economy by connecting the western part of Japan to the northeastern part and Hokkaido along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Typically, the Benzaisen-type ships, originally developed for transport in the Setonaikai Sea were used as Kitamae-bune. The one-tenth-scale model here represents a Kitamae-bune with a length of 30 m and capacity of 1000 goku (about 180 cubic meters) in the 19th century. Its design was taken from a drawing of Akita-Kaido-Emaki (Drawings of Akita Highway, possessed by the Akita Senshu City Museum) that constitutes part of the Japanese heritage mentioned above. In addition to the mainsail at the center, a secondary sail (called Yaho) was placed on the stern. The secondary sail of this ship was a Matsuemon sail, an invention in 1785 that revolutionized the operability of the Kitamae-bune. This model ship is made of cedar, cypress, and zelkova, which was also the case for real Kitamae ships in the 19th century. This model, which incorporates the latest achievements of relevant research, should convey a vivid image of the ships with their sharp bows and solid naves braving the rough seas.