Question about Boshin War/Bakumatsu-era ships

May 2019
138
Earth
The 1850s-60s was a turbulent time for Japan, and various feudal lords began adopting modern, steam-powered vessels built to western specifications, some of which were armed for use in local conflicts and the Boshin War. But I was curious whether, at any point during this period, there was any use of armed vessels that were built in indigenous Japanese fashion?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not expecting anyone to have resurrected the design for some massive Atakebune, but I was thinking for example of things like native fishing vessels armed with a few guns as a stop-gap measure, or perhaps some lesser feudal lord having a few kobaya or mekura bune type boats built as cheap patrol craft. Did anything like this actually occur, or were virtually all armed vessels in Japan during this period built along western shipbuilding specs?
 
Last edited:
Mar 2019
1,801
Kansas
The 1850s-60s was a turbulent time for Japan, and various feudal lords began adopting modern, steam-powered vessels built to western specifications, some of which were armed for use in local conflicts and the Boshin War. But I was curious whether, at any point during this period, there was any use of armed vessels that were built in indigenous Japanese fashion?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not expecting anyone to have resurrected the design for some massive Atakebune, but I was thinking for example of things like native fishing vessels armed with a few guns as a stop-gap measure, or perhaps some lesser feudal lord having a few kobaya or mekura bune type boats built as cheap patrol craft. Did anything like this actually occur, or were virtually all armed vessels in Japan during this period built along western shipbuilding specs?

I have seen a couple of comments about sailboats being used during the war, but I dont know if anyone has ever bothered putting the information in any reference material :(
 
May 2019
138
Earth

I have seen a couple of comments about sailboats being used during the war, but I dont know if anyone has ever bothered putting the information in any reference material :(
Thanks, although vessels like the Chiyodagata are not what I'm asking about in this instance. She was built along 19th century western specs. When I said "built in indigenous Japanese fashion", I was referring to vessels of hull and sail plan that were native to Japan. Sorry if I wasn't clear enough. I know that during the Sakoku period there was a restriction on ocean-going ships, but I believe the Japanese were still building fishing vessels and other coastal craft after their own shipbuilding traditions, so I wondered if maybe any of these were converted for auxiliary naval purposes.

Also, if wikipedia is to be believed, the restrictions on "seaworthy" ships were lifted by the Shogunate in 1853, so I got curious about any attempts to convert/resurrect traditional Japanese designs for armed service, even if only as a stop-gap measure because they were more familiar and/or less expensive to produce. I'm not expecting these sorts of traditional vessels to hold their own against more modern ships, but I could still see them used in specialist roles, e.g. something like a kobaya design serving as a cheap scout or patrol craft for some smaller feudal navy. I just have no clue if anything like that was done...

EDIT: Just found this article which claims that ships of sekibune design were retained through the Edo period, and the Shogunate did not discard it's sekibune until 1862: Sekibune - SamuraiWiki

It would be interesting to know of any naval (or at least auxiliary) use of these sorts of vessels during the Bakumatsu/Boshin War era, given that some seem to have been around at the time...
 
Last edited:

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,740
I'd be surprised if that was tried, except maybe briefly, once... considering the Japanese clearly and quickly came to the conclusion that virtually all their traditional stuff was sub-par to useless, and when hell for leather to emulate the stuff of the westerners. The naval war part of the Boshin war was rather limited, but fought exclusively with western design ships.

As far as I understand the Japense never bothered trying to build their own, with traditional ship-building techniques, but immediately in 1853 ordered and bought their first ships from the Dutch. The Dutch were there, had the traditional contacts and representation in Japan, and was a decent mid-size European maritime power perfectly capable of supplying up-to-date vessels.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_barque_Kankō_Maru
 
May 2019
138
Earth
I'd be surprised if that was tried, except maybe briefly, once... considering the Japanese clearly and quickly came to the conclusion that virtually all their traditional stuff was sub-par to useless, and when hell for leather to emulate the stuff of the westerners. The naval war part of the Boshin war was rather limited, but fought exclusively with western design ships.
Even if once, I'd be curious to hear about it if it's on the historical record. As I said, I'm not expecting any of these sorts of vessels to have been seriously used in "front-line" naval combat; but even boats that were requisitioned into scouting, patrol, dispatch, troop transport, etc. would be of interest to me. If they were around, why not use them and save your steamships for the more serious fighting?