“Kitamaesen” (北前船), a ship used for trading between the northern island of Hokkaido and more southern ports during feudal Japan’s later years. The kitamaesen was just one of many vessels in a larger category of merchant Japanese ships called “bezaisen,” (弁才船), distinguished by their large, battened sails, sloping sterns, and long tillers.

An interesting note is that Japanese sailors knew only very rudimentary navigation and therefore did not venture far out of sight of land. Navigation was slowly introduced in part after 1850 by John Manjiro, who was the first Japanese person to live in America and had learned navigation from American sailors.