Research on tub boat (taraibune) building in Ogi in the City of Sado
From September 10–11, tub boat building techniques (nationally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 2007) passed down around the Ogi Peninsula, south of the City of Sado, Niigata Prefecture were studied. Tub boats, known on Sado Island as hangiri, are able to make tight turns and are highly stable, so they have readily been used for isonegi (fishing or harvesting seaweed close to shore), which is done in inlets with numerous rocks.
Coopering techniques are applied to build tub boats, which are made by sticking planks of Japanese cedar together and then holding them in place with hoops of timber bamboo. The City of Sado attempted to train successors to carry on these techniques by conducting a seminar to train tub boat builders in 2009. However, the situation remains dire as there are only a few such boat builders. One reason for this was the initial decline in demand for tub boats. As a result, tub boat builders had difficulty making a living and they had few opportunities to hone the skills. Tub boats are still used for isonegi on the northern coast of the Ogi Peninsula, but isonegi itself is not as prevalent as it once was. Moreover, fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) was used to coat tub boats starting in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, increasing their durability. Thus, there is little projected demand for new tub boats.
When demand for a folk technique like tub boat building wanes as a result of changes in ways of life and people’s lives along with changes in lifestyles and as a result of the introduction of new technologies, the technique itself quickly fades. That said, the fact is that techniques can be carried on by altering the techniques and their uses in accordance with changes in the social climate. In Ogi, a private operator began offering rides in tub boats starting in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s. Sado has now become synonymous with sightseeing. Fishing from tub boats and tub boat building had been passed down in places like the Noto Peninsula and Toyama at one time, but those traditions have steadfastly remained only in Sado. This is probably because Sado created a new demand by turning tub boats into a sightseeing resource and because of changes in people’s attitudes towards tub boats.
Nonetheless, FRP is being used to successively coat the boats that were built and stored for tub boat sightseeing about 10 years ago. The passing down of tub boat-building techniques will be subjected to further changes.