Saturday, 25 February 2012

Japanese rowing

I've been meaning to post this from Bob Holtzman's Indigenous Boats blog for ages, but better late than never.
This is a trading vessel of the Ainu people from Hokkaido, the big island at the top end of Japan. The Ainu are not ethnic Japanese, so were historically were allowed to do a lot of things that the Japanese themselves were forbidden. In this respect they were rather like the Jews in medieval Europe, who could lend money at interest when Christians were banned by the usury laws.
When Japan slammed the door on the outside world in 1639, the Ainu continued to trade with China, Korea and other parts of Asia, often acting as middle-men for Japanese merchants.
This boat, called an itaomachip, is about 40ft long and both rowed and sailed by the odd arrangement of masts on both sides of the boat. The masts could be moved to take advantage of winds from most directions.
Note how the Ainu are portrayed with big hairy beards and the Japanese merchants are clean shaven.
Eventually, the Shoguns realised how profitable the trade was and took it over, reducing the unfortunate Ainu to destitution. They were systematically persecuted throughout the 20th century.
An itaomachip is built on a base of a dugout canoe, a particular sort of tree that is hollowed, then filled with water and hot stones to expand it. The rest of the hull is made of pine boards sewn together.

1 comment:

Chris Waite said...

The rig is not actually that unusual and very effective, try this link:

Or look up Traditional Sri Lanakan Fishing Boats at Negombo. I feel there is another example still going, but I can't remember where

Chris W