We found Mr. Hashimoto’s workshop in a small building right on the road along the shore. He was working on some small cabin tops for boats and had just finished fiberglassing them. His tools were stored along one narrow end wall. He spoke very quietly and I had to strain to hear and understand what he was saying. You’d call him shy for sure, but Imaishi had told me Hashimoto said he usually threw people out of his shop when he was working but that he’s realized it would now be important to have someone document his work.
He had several different terms for boat parts and techniques I’d never heard before. We talked about the launching ceremony, which he said did not include a priest. He said the new boat would be turned in a circle three times to the left. I’ve heard this before and I asked the meaning. He said he didn’t know, adding, “It only mattered in the old days,” though he thinks to the left because the sacred Shinto rope (shimewara) is rolled to the left. In the boat’s shrine they placed ten yen coins, paper dolls, and dice. He said these must be inserted when no one is watching. He said after launch the owner would take his friends for the first ride and then they would throw the owner into the sea. His final words were, “We have to follow the traditions.”
Fifty years ago he started building cormorant fishing boats for Iwakuni, taking over when the previous river boat builder died. In the old days river and sea boats were built by different craftspeople. After saying goodbye we walked down to the harbor to see a couple of his larger fishing boats, the last wooden boats in the harbor. Then we went to Iwakuni. Seeing Hashimoto’s boats here was a revelation. He built both the cormorant boats and the larger tour boats that carry passengers to watch the fishermen. The latter are significant boats and according to the person we met there Hashimoto built all of them, a prodigious output. His cormorant boats are shorter than the one I built in Gifu, but basically the same shape. All the planking is cedar and almost all is full length, no scarfs in either the bottom or side planking. I noticed the bottoms are perfectly flat. Many small details are different as well. There was one boat from Seki there, donated to the local fishermen after many of their boats were lost in a typhoon.