Japan in Puzzles
I often think about traveling during the winter months, perhaps because I end up wrapped up in a blanket on my couch for most of the season. One of the places I’ve always wanted to visit is Japan. I had actually started to plan a trip for 2020 when current events made us pause our plans, and we haven’t quite been able to pick up where we left off. In the meantime, I know that puzzles have my back!
I started my puzzling tour this time with the adorable Tokyo Mini Puzzle in 48 pieces from Mudpuppy. I love the great artwork by Erica Harrison and the vivid colors. And when I accidentally dropped a corner piece in the dog’s water bowl, it survived just fine without any peeling. That sure gets my vote of confidence!
As fun colors go, I really like this very very pink Japan Map in 500 pieces from Hardie Grant. I’m also really intrigued by the 1200+ 4D Cityscape Puzzle of Osaka, Japan, complete with little 3D buildings to put on your puzzle map!
I continued with some beautiful Japanese-themed illustrations, including the 1000-piece Japanese Garden Teahouse from Ravensburger with art by Jason Taylor. When I first saw this puzzle when it was released earlier this year, I knew immediately that I needed it! Again, I loved the colors and beautiful theming.
When building this one, I started with lights, temple, and colorful leaves. I saved much of the greens and browns for last, but the different textures in the foliage really helped a lot.
It’s no surprise that there are a large variety of puzzles with images of Japanese gardens. Some of my favorites are Japanese Tea Garden in 300 pieces from Galison with art by Michael Storings, Japanese Garden in Bloom in both 300 and 1000 pieces from SunsOut, and the incredibly colorful NIWA in 1000 pieces from JaCaRou Puzzles. For a larger challenge, there’s also Japanese Garden in 3000 pieces from Educa.
In addition to gardens, shrines and temples are common images in puzzles. I also really enjoyed the vivid colors in Spring Sakura, a 1000-piece puzzle from Eurographics with art by Lars Stewart. Perhaps you’ve noticed a theme in my post so far–I just can’t resist vivid colors!
The temple in this puzzle was trickier than I expected, but again there were several different textures and patterns to help me sort things out.
There are just so many beautiful puzzles of Japanese shrines and temples, both as photographs and illustrations. Some of my favorites are Osaka Castle, Japan in 2000 pieces from Educa and Lost in Kyoto, Japan in 1000 pieces from Buffalo Games’ Blanc line. I’m also fascinated by the 3D Metal Earth model kits like Himeji Castle, Osaka Castle (pictured below), and Yomei Gate. My husband has made some of the Metal Earth kits of tiny planes, but these buildings are so impressive!
Perhaps to balance out all those vivid colors, I also quite unintentionally put together three puzzles with images of traditional woodblock artwork. The first two were Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine and Autumn at Saruiwa, both in 500 pieces from Pomegranate and by artist Kawase Hasui.
I love that the back of the Pomegranate box has details about the artwork and artist. According to the box, Hasui was a prolific artist whose watercolor prints were turned into woodblock prints during the early 1900s. Although a bit more muted than the previous puzzles, I really did enjoy the colors in these puzzles as well. My sorting-inclined brain really appreciated how easy it was to separate out the different sections too!
I also couldn’t resist this cat looking out the window at Mount Fuji. This puzzle—also 500 pieces from Pomegranate—is titled Utagawa Hiroshige, named after the artist. Hiroshige created paintings and prints during the early 1800s depicting everyday life in Japan’s capital city of Edo (now Tokyo). I really enjoyed the different patterns in this one, and of course the delightful little cat! I really appreciate the really thick pieces and incredibly sturdy box from Pomegranate puzzles, though I did have a few false fits in some of the solid-colored sections like the sky. After I did one puzzle and knew they were coming, it was much easier to avoid any issues from that aspect.
Other traditional Japanese artwork in puzzles include the iconic Great Wave Off Kanagawa in 300 pieces from Eurographics, Naruto Whirlpool in 1000 pieces from Eurographics, and Amaterasu in 1000 pieces from Piatnik.
Mount Fuji is such an impressive geographical feature, and it is also commonly depicted in puzzles. I was my favorite part of Cherry Blossoms, a 1000-piece puzzle from Re-marks. I don’t often do puzzles from photographs, and I find random-cut puzzles challenging to wrap my head around, so this one was quite tricky for me! The sky in particular was a lot to get through. It also took me a while to realize that the location of Mount Fuji was shifted on the front of the box, which didn’t show the entire picture, so I was confused about its placement for quite a while! But, as with them all, I really enjoyed the end result!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of Japanese-themed puzzles. For more on the world tour, check out previous blog posts taking us to Barcelona, Paris, and London and showing off the resulting travel souvenirs. Where do you think we should visit next in our puzzling journey?
- Gail, @jiggies_and_gems
I lived in Japan for 2 years back in the 90s. I love puzzles with Japanese themes and have done several of the ones you have mentioned and have a few in my to do pile. Hope you make it to Japan soon. It’s an amazing place.
I love puzzles that reflect the beauty and art of Japan. I’ve done many in this collection and hope you’ll be adding more.