Ship Shape

A fleet of Japanese vessels from Yamada-Ken!

If you read Minecraft.net a lot, 23 hours a day, seven days a week, including Christmas/your wedding day (like you're supposed to) you've likely noticed that we enjoy our boat builds. We've featured fisher boats, perfect for trying to catch a bite, these Black Sails inspired ships, perfect for your classic pirate, and whatever the heck this awesome boat is supposed to be, perfect for... well, anyone who loves awesome things!

But ace as all these boats are, they might as well be a school of herring when compared with vessels we're featuring today - a fleet of Japanese ships, recreated in meticulous detail!

These ships are the work of Minecraft builder, Yamada-Ken. I first encountered one when I was bobbing through the high seas of Planet Minecraft and found the IJN Battleship Yamato. I was impressed by Yamada-Ken's level of detail, and his smart use of TNT cannons to show the Yamato's might. FIRE!

“Originally, I had an interest in warships and had made efforts to make plastic kits of them,” explains Yamada-Ken to me. “But I found it tiring to paint the kit and so was seeking for another way to enjoy building warships with total flexibility.”

It was Yamada-Ken's search for a more flexible building medium that helped him find our game. “I figured out that Minecraft would be great for building ships since I can start from scratch and I have no limit of which ship I [can] build.”

The restrictions of plastic models gone, Yamada-Ken started considering how to use different aspects of Minecraft to create more detailed ships. “I can use the blocks with the colors I want,” he says. “I could also make interior and fit TNT cannons which cannot be done with plastic kits.”

Yamada-Ken started playing Minecraft “about three and a half years ago” at a Minecraft club in his school (all good schools have a Minecraft club – don't argue with my sweeping generalisation there, this is now a fact). But after convincing his parents to buy him the game, Yamada-Ken spent a surprising amount of time not focusing on building. “Initially I did not build anything and just played survival mode for about a year.”

It's a way of playing the game he's keen to return to. “Another interest I have is playing survival mode of Minecraft with some mods. Because I always build in creative mode, I haven't played survival mode for a while and I often miss it.” Nooooo! We want more ace builds, dude!

We're just kidding of course – Yamada-Ken is free to play Minecraft however he chooses – though if he had to pick a favourite amongst his fleet, which ship would he choose?

“My favourite one is the Kaga-class battleship.”

An impressive ship indeed, and we're particularly enthralled by the choice of a pumpkin block as a masthead. Yamada-Ken explains that the Kaga has a rich history. “[It] has three other sister ships and they are Tosa, Satsuma, and Owari. Those names are taken from the names from the feudal states in Japan which existed [a] long long time ago.”

So of all his builds, why is this his favourite? “The reason why I like this one the most is because Kaga class is the first battleship I made,” he explains. “and through the constructions of all four Kaga-class battleships I learned the basics of building battleships.

“For example, the distinct shape of the bow and a unique bridge that is often called "pagoda mast". I was able to utilize these things I learned for the later creations including this Yamato.”

Click through the slideshow above and you'll see Yamada-Ken's impressive array of naval battleships. But has he ever considered leaving the waters for a different kind of build?

Indeed he has, thanks to interacting with the wider Minecraft community. “Through twitter, I [have] had a chance to be acquainted with those who build huge structures such as castles or traditional shrines in Japan. So I am also interested in building those, although, to me, it looks like it would take much more effort than building warships.”

Not necessarily! For example, the castle I recently built in twenty minutes out of rotten flesh took very little effort. Marsh even said that it looked like I'd “put in no effort at all”. Bah. Everyone's a critic.

You can enjoy more of Yamada-Ken's spectacular seafaring work in this handy Twitter moment he's compiled. We'd recommend following him too - if only to see where his seafaring building skills take us next.