Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Project

For over two years I have been trying to organize a project in Okinawa where I could study the boat building methods of the sabani, the traditional fishing boat of this region.  There are perhaps only three craftsmen left in this archipelago who still know these methods.  All of them are old and this tradition is in real danger of being lost.  For me, having studied previously with four other Japanese boat builders, another reason to come to Okinawa was the unique technology used here.  In particular the use of wooden butterfly keys in lieu of nails to fasten the planking together.

Funding for this project comes from the Edwin Monk Scholarship of the Center For Wooden Boats, Seattle, the Asian Cultural Council of New York, and the Nippon Foundation of Tokyo.  Mr. Ryujin Shimojo of Iejima, Okinawa, agreed to teach me how to build a sabani, and since this past Monday, November 16, 2009, we have been at it.  The project should run through the end of January so please check back to see our progress.

Later, a fuller accounting of this project will appear at my website.  Next year the Museum of Maritime Science (Funenokagakukan) in Tokyo will publish a monograph that I am writing on the construction of the sabani.


  1. Douglas:

    I'm signed up and sitting on the edge of my chair waiting for the next installment. Those wooden keys are a mystery to me so I'm really curious to see how and why they are used.


  2. GANBATTE !! Shimoda-san and Doug-san !!


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