The large exhibit in the center of the hall is a reconstructed midship section of a bezaisen, which are nowadays commonly called sengokubune and flourished in the Edo Period. This shows both the shaeps and principal structural features of the frameless three-pieces hull, with a flat keel, and through-beams. It is amazing that people at that time could work with such thick boards!
This is a regional variations of a bezaisen called a higakikaisen, which derived its name from the diamond-shaped lattice work on its bulwarks, and carried daily necessities such as cotton and oil from Osaka to Edo during the Edo Period.
Bezaisen wer fitted with one mast and a single square sail. Although its sailing performance was long believed to be inferior to that of western square riggers, recent studies have shown that it was not so.
This is a regional variation of a bezaisen, called a kitamaebune. Kitamae means northern regions, and kitamaebune meant northern ships developed in this Sea of Japan from the mid 18th century, which played an important role not only in transporting goods but also in disseminating folk culture such as folk songs and dialects. Take a closer look and you'll find that the forward and aft sections are at a greater-angle than those of other bezaisen, such as higakikaisen, in order to increase the tonnage.
This model was made at the Oaki Shipyard in Tokyo, in 1886, to preserve the big traditional vessel for posterity because the building of Japanese-style ships of 500-koku or over was to be banned from January 1887 onward. For this purpose, its workmanship is elaborate down to the last detail.
As soon as European sailing ships were introduced into Japan in the mid-19th century, a great variety of hybrid-type ships between the Japanese and European traditions emerged. One of them is this model which has a three piece hull, while the rig and rudder follow European practice. Most sailing coasters of the late19th century were hybrid-type.
This dugout, called eguribune, was made from a single piece of cedar log in the Oga Peninsula of Akita Prefecture. Eguribune were used for inshore fishing until recently, but are now replaced by FRP fiberglass reinforced plastic ships.
The interesting thing about these boats lies in the fact that dugouts have been in use since the Jomon Period and have survived for over 4,000 years, coexisting with state-of-the-art ships such as the Techno Super liner.
Here, the history of Japanese ships, which begins with dugouts of the Jomon Period, is illustrated by ship models.
First is the Kentoshisen, the ship carrying the Japanese envoy, called Kentoshi, to China in the Tang dynasty. Kentoshi played a significant role in introducing Chinese culture and institutions into Japan. Kentoshisen crossing the East China Sea from the 8th to the 9th century were supposed to be junks, but, unfortunately, few records of them remain, so their details are obscure. This model is based on pictures from the 11th to the 13th century.
The medieval sea-going ship, as shown here, was the extended three-part dugout, that is, the ship in which the three-part dugout base was extended by the addition of a piece or pieces to the hull. From the 9th to the 14th century,the largest ships were of 200 koku, that is, 30 metric tons burden. This model is based on pictures from the 13th century.
In the 15th century ships of over 1000 koku, that is, 150 metric tons burden, appeared due to the official trade with the Ming dynasty which started in 1404. These ships were still extended dugouts. We don't know the date the piece-built ships which replaced the dugout base by the flat keel, but piece-built ships are thought to have appeared by the early 16th century.
This is a model of an early piece-built foreign trader based on a painting dayting back 1524 depicting Kentoshisen.
This is a Shuinsen, that is a, trading ship authorized by the Tokugawa Shogunate in the early 17th century. Shuinsen were intermediate between the Chinese, Japanese and European traditions, for they had hulls and fore-and-aft rigs of junks, as shown here, while the forecastle followed Japanese practice and the rudder, stern-gallery, sprit sail and triangular sail followed European traditions. The total number of shuinsen that sailed to Southeast Asia amounted to about 350. In the 1630s the Shogunate prohibited foreign voyaging, so shuinsen disappeared.
Japan has been the scene of many naval wars since ancient times. These are models of warships built during the Warring States Period of the 15th-16th centuries and the Azuchi Momoyama Period of the 16th-17th centuries. The bigger one is an atakebune, once praised as a castle at sea, and the smaller one is a very mobile sekibune. Compared to modern ships, atakebune corresponds to a battleship and sekibune to a war cruiser.
The Tokugawa Shogunate prohibited daimyo from building warships of over 500 koku, especially atakebune, in the early 17th century. Big sekibune for shoguns were called umigozabune or seagoing gozabune as opposed to the kawagozabune used on rivers.
This gorgeous umigozabune lacquered in vermilion and decorated with plated metal fittings was called the Tenchi Maru and was built by the shogun to demonstrate his power to the whole country.
After its emergence in 1630, it was moored at the Shogunate's dock (called ofunagura) on the Sumida River, underwent many repairs, and was retired in 1862.
When the Shogunate system was firmly established and the sankinkotai system of mandatory alternate residence in Edo for daimyo was instituted, fleets of daimyo living in the western region of the country, such as Shikoku and Kyushu, were often seen traveling in the Seto Inland Sea on the way to and from Edo.
This fine umigozabune lacquered in black is an omeshikae gozabune called the Taiho Maru owned by the Kumamoto clan. Omeshikae means a spare ship in place of an official gozabune.
Fleets comprised of over 100 sankinkotai ships must have been magnificent.
People used to be able to tell whose fleet was passing by the tone of bells and drums accompanying a sea chant.
In 1853, the Uraga magistrate's office found a huge, unfamiliar black ship emitting black smoke offshore. On this day, Commodore Perry's American fleet of four ships, including the steam warship Susquehanna, came to Japan and demanded the opening of the country.
This diorama depicts the Uraga visit of Perry's black ships. You can see how big the warships of Perry's fleet were compared to the largest bezaisen at the time.
It is often believed that all the ships in Perry's fleet were steamships, but in fact, only two were steamships and the remaining two were sailboats, which were pulled by the steam ships when they entered Uraga. As their hulls were painted black, we tend to think they were made of iron, but they were actually wooden ships painted black with tar for corrosion control.
At this time, Japan concluded a Japan-U.S. Treaty of Peace and Amity, marking the abandonment of the closed-door policy. After opening its doors to the West, Japan rushed toward westernization and modernization.
Shocked by the visit of Perry's fleet and realizing the need for modern warships and strong naval power, the Tokugawa Shogunate accepted Holland's donation of a ship called the Kanko Maru, which was the first steam warship owned by Japan. Japan then purchased a steam warship equipped with a screw propeller, the Kanrin Maru, for $100,000. This sailboat-like black ship is the steam warship Kanrin Maru.
Later in 1860, the Kanrin Maru, with the military magistrate Kimura Settsunokami and Captain Kaishu Katsu on board, accompanied a delegation to the U.S. and successfully navigated back and forth across the Pacific under the guidance of Captain Brook of the American survey ship Cooper. This success marked a new step toward modernization.
This model was reproduced faithfully from existing drawings of that time borrowed from the Maritime Museum of Prince Hendrik in the Netherlands and is valuable source material that clearly depicts the Kanrin Maru at the time.
The steam engine of the Kanrin Maru, however, was still auxiliary, and when it sailed, it used to pull up the screw propeller and shorten its funnel.
You must be tired after walking around the museum for so long.
How about taking a break at the Maritime Saloon to look at the paintings of the training sailing ships Nippon Maru and Kaio Maru, and a scroll painting of ships on the wall?
After a break, please take the elevator to the Observation Tower.
The Observation Tower is a two-storied facility located at the top of a mast 70 meters above the ground, and as the Museum is situated in the center of Tokyo Bay, it offers a 360-degree view of the bay and surrounding area.
The bright orange ship moored next to the white Museum of Maritime Science is Japan's first Antarctic expeditionary ship, the Soya, and beyond that is the Yotei Maru in blue and white, an Aomori-Hakodate ferry that used to link Honshu and Hokkaido, which is preserved and displayed as a floating pavilion.
On a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji to the west. Can you see it today? Why don't you take some time and enjoy this grand view from the Observation Tower?
After enjoying the view, please take the elevator down to the 5th floor and then go upstairs to the 6th floor.