If you don't feel like reading everything here, you should at least consider scrolling down and seeing the video links I've posted.
I passed through Kyoto Station on my way to Gifu, which is in the mountains on the banks of the Nagara River.
Our first stop was the Gifu City boatbuilding workshop. Here the city has three boatbuilders making the tourist boats that watch the fishermen work. They had just started a new boat and had the bottom set up for assembly.
The program is trying to encourage students to develop wooden products based on local traditions and needs. One of last year's graduates is now making geta, or wooden sandals. The shot above was a project were all the students made very small carving chisels and planes and each had to make a bowl with them.
Then it was upriver to Nasu san's shop. His former shop was close to the river and the government decided to concretize the river bank, so he built a new shop further uphill. I liked the fact that he demanded the traditional clay floor in his work area.
From Nasu san's shop we went to Gujou City to see his apprentice, Tajiri san. He is 52 and now building a new ukaibune fishing boat. He showed us the traditional tool for setting plank angles. The boatbuilder simply remembers the horizontal measurement from the line to the stick for each angle.
This bottom planking is almost 35 feet long, but amazingly just over an inch thick. Tajiri san told me he makes the bottom with a slight curve, but that water pressure will flatten the bottom. He also said the boat will be flexible and this is safer. The fishermen work standing up and the boats are incredibly narrow for their length. A flexible boat is less apt to capsize.
I stayed overnight with my friend and this morning we took a look across the river where the six usho (cormorant fishermen) live and keep their fishing boats. This is an inherited position and technically Gifu's six fishermen are employees of the Imperial Household Agency that administers the royal family.