Shipbuilding and Nautical Technology in Japanese Maritime History: Origins to 1600

By William Wayne Ferris, published August 2009

Abstract

Sources relating to developments in Japanese ship building and maritime practices are sparse before 1600, although evidence does exist in the form of archaeological artefacts, artistic representations and written descriptions. Traditional Japanese ship design and nautical methods had assumed their fundamental shape by 900 AD. This was to change from 1300 AD onwards with Japan experiencing key developments in ship design and navigational techniques.Much remains uncertain about the growth of Japanese ship design and navigational techniques. Early boat builders to c.900 built simple canoe type boats. Chinese junks, which used sail power, were constructed especially for mainland diplomatic missions. Japan remained isolated diplomatically 900 to 1300, but trade continued, probably in Chinese hands. The 14th and 15th centuries was a transitional period with advances in shipbuilding, carvel-built type hulls, improved carpentry tools, access to better timber supplies, and expanded commerce.  Prolonged civil war after 1467 resulted in adaptation of designs for warships.  Japanese shipbuilding remained distinctive, despite studying Chinese models, and the available maritime technology influenced Japanese contacts with the Asian continent.

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Filed under: Early Middle Ages | Late Middle Ages | High Middle Ages | Other (location)
Subjects include: Shipbuilding & Design | Strategy & Diplomacy

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