Lecture: “Ways of Learning; An Apprentice Boatbuilder in Japan” by Douglas Brooks

January 19, 2023 6:00 pm

When people think about Japan, they usually have in their minds images of manga and anime, busy urban centers, and an economy based on innovations in electronics.  Most people do not know that there is also a second Japan, wherein lies a rich history of traditional arts and crafts, many of which are fast disappearing.  Douglas Brooks has apprenticed with nine boatbuilders from throughout Japan since 1996, building over a dozen types of traditional boats.  In this slide talk he will share his experiences with traditional crafts drawn from twenty-six trips to Japan since 1990, visiting all forty-seven prefectures. Brooks’ research in Japan focuses on the techniques and design secrets of the craft.  These techniques have been passed from master to apprentice with almost no written record.  His book, Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding (Floating World Editions, 2015) is the first comprehensive survey of the craft, spanning his first five apprenticeships and including a chapter on Japan’s last traditional shipwright. Brooks will also talk about the nature of craft education in Japan; an ethic that is largely at odds with our notions of teaching in the West.  The apprentice system produced craftspeople with incomparable skills, yet it required an intense devotion and seriousness from participants.  Brooks has experienced first-hand what it is like to learn when the apprentice is forbidden from speaking.  At the core of this process is the belief that one learns by observation and perseverance. Japan’s last generation of traditional boatbuilders has almost disappeared. Brooks’ teachers were all in their seventies and eighties when he worked with them, and he is the sole apprentice for seven of his nine teachers.

About the Speaker:
Douglas Brooks is a boatbuilder, writer and researcher who specializes in the construction of traditional wooden boats for museums and private clients.  He worked in the Small Boat Shop at the National Maritime Museum in San Francisco from 1985-1990 and has since built boats at museums in Japan and across the United States.  He teaches classes in boat building and has written regularly for magazines like WoodenBoat USA), Classic Boat (UK), and KAZI (Japan). Brooks attended the Williams Mystic Seaport Program in American Maritime History, and he is a 1982 graduate of Trinity College (B.A. Philosophy) and a 2002 graduate of the Middlebury College Language School (Japanese). He lives with his wife Catherine in Vergennes, Vermont.  To see photos of his boats and learn more about his research, please visit: www.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com.



January 19th, 2023

In-Person Reception begins at 6 pm
Lecture begins at 7 pm, Eastern

Purchase tickets below:
Virtual Tickets: Members: $10, Non-Members: $15
In-Person Tickets: Members: $15, Non-Members: $20
Save $5. Support the Museum. Become a Member today.