You’ve probably heard that old cliché that Japan takes something and makes it better. While I am a big Japan fan (as you might have guessed from previous blogs) and I think Japan is much better at presenting me with hobby opportunities I don’t buy into that cliché wholeheartedly. Nonetheless, where jigsaw puzzles are concerned, they have made it better.
I know what you’re thinking. Ridiculous. There are great jigsaw puzzles available in North America (and I suppose Europe–though I have never checked) so how could Japanpossibly have made this better?
You’re right. They haven’t made the jigsaw puzzle better. It is still just a picture on cardboard. The subject of them might be different (there are a lot of Mount Fuji puzzle pictures in Japan, and some fantastic Ukiyoe puzzles) but beyond that a puzzle is a puzzle.
What they have made better is the building of puzzles. Maybe it is because they treat it more like a hobby, and less like a diversion. This has been done in two ways.
Each puzzle usually contains the puzzle (of course) advertising for other puzzles, the ability to send away for a puzzle catalogue, a service card that tells you how to resolve any problems that arise from missing pieces (quite ingenious actually–you have to trace out the piece and send it to them, and they will send you the piece you are missing), glue for making the puzzle permanent and a small sponge to apply the glue. All and all, a pretty complete package. They even have a point system whereby if you buy enough puzzles you can get one for free.
The other thing that they have done is make puzzles in standard sizes–a lot of standard sizes. The result is that on the puzzle box they will print a number (like B6) which corresponds to a frame that will fit that puzzles– and fit it well. These frames are available at a reasonable price where you buy the puzzle. What makes these frames useful is that they tray the puzzles sits on has a lip, so the pieces will stay in place, and can be used in the construction phase to keep everything together, and define height and width of the puzzle.
Granted, my experience with puzzles involves getting them from Zellers whenever I see one with a train theme, so maybe there is this kind of thing available here or in other countries, but Japan just seemed to make it easier.
I have done a couple of puzzles in Canada (as I mentioned, a CP train crossing a river in the prairies) but it wasn’t quite the same. I have the glue, but no frame. I want to put it in the train room (eventually) but I am not sure how that is going to work.
I have seen some high end puzzle at a game room store–I think we only have one in Canada. The puzzles looked cool, but once again no frame. I guess the internet will have to provide a solution for this too.