Boatbuilder Douglas Brooks led eighteen students at the University of Illinois in building a 21-foot Shinano River boat, a traditional design from Niigata, Japan. The boat is made of Eastern white pine using traditional hand tools and Japanese traditional woodworking techniques and blacksmith-made Japanese boat nails.
This boat was featured at Japan House’s 2022 Spring Open House and blessed with a boat launching ceremony. For more information about the project and Japan House’s programs, visit https://japanhouse.illinois.edu/education/university-classes/boatbuilding
Japanese river boats tend to be simpler than sea boats, and this boat is a hard-chined, canoe-like craft used in the lagoons and estuaries of the river mouth. They are locally called itaawase (“plank built”) or honryousen (“standard fishing boat”). The finished boat is suitable for paddling by one or two people. The design can also be adapted for an outboard motor. These boats were all-purpose vessels used by farmers and fishermen in the large delta of the Shinano River.