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Jigsaw puzzles from Japan

Chinese calendar animals

On this page: 2018: Year of the Dog - 2017: Year of the Cockerel - 2016: Year of the Monkey - 2015: Year of the Ram (Sorry! No puzzles available) - 2014: Year of the Horse - 2013: Year of the Snake - 2012: Year of the Dragon - 2011: Year of the Rabbit - 2010: Year of the Tiger - What is this "Lucky"?

2018 is the Year of the Dog

Year of the Dog
© Mori Seikaku

1500: Year of the Dog (Seikaku)

A proud dog family is surrounded by auspicious symbols, from Mount Fuji in the background to the piles and piles of treasure.

No biographical details, but the artist Mori Seikaku specialises in animal and flower scroll paintings. He signs his work the traditional way, with the characters for his given (brush) name, Seikaku (lit. 'nest of the crane') and a seal of the same.

* This puzzle has smaller pieces than the standard size.

In stock
An Epoch puzzle: 1500 pieces; 75 x 50 cm (30" x 20")
Code: E15082 (15-082 on box)
Retail price ¥3000 (approx. US$28.04 €23.62 £21.74)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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Playful puppies
© Izumi Kazumi

1000: Playful puppies (Kazumi)

Puppies play in a charming rural setting. A naturalistic blue Mount Fuji looms in the distance. The scene is completed by a large pot full of treasure.

Izumi Kazumi is an animal artist who graduated from Osaka University fine arts department in 1984. Izumi is her family name.

In stock
An Appleone puzzle: 1000 pieces; 75 x 50 cm (30" x 20")
Code: A10812 (1000-812 on box)
Retail price ¥3600 (approx. US$33.64 €28.35 £26.09)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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Dog family with Kishimojin
© Ozuma Kaname

1000: Dog family with Kishimojin (Kaname)

The dog has long been taken as a symbol of easy childbirth, and here the litter of puppies (six in all) sit with their mother at the foot of Kishimojin. This latter has an interesting story - her name is literally "Devil-child-mother-god", and she started out as an evil character, whose favourite activity was eating other people's babies. But she was persuaded by Shaka-sama (the historical Buddha) to reform, and became a protector of children and augurer of easy childbirth.

More on Kishimojin at Mark Schumacher's Buddhist Corner

The painter Ozuma Kaname was born in 1939, in Niigata. He studied traditional Japanese art, and his pictures are generally based on traditional themes.

Ozuma is his family name: he signs paintings with the single character of his given name only.

In stock
A Yanoman puzzle: 1000 pieces; 50 x 75 cm (20" x 30")
Code: Y101296 (10-1296 on box)
Retail price ¥3000 (approx. US$28.04 €23.62 £21.74)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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2017 was the Year of the Cockerel

Year of the Cockerel
© Mori Seikaku

1500: Year of the Cockerel (Seikaku)

The cockerel looks proudly on as his hen looks after her chicks, and a pile of gold coins scattered on the ground. The background includes many more treasure items, including more bars of gold, red coral, and some mystery urns. More auspicious symbols, pine, plum, and bamboo, Mount Fuji, and the rising sun, complete the scene.

No biographical details, but the artist Mori Seikaku specialises in animal and flower scroll paintings. He signs his work the traditional way, with the characters for his given (brush) name, Seikaku (lit. 'nest of the crane') and a seal of the same.

* This puzzle has smaller pieces than the standard size.

In stock
An Epoch puzzle: 1500 pieces; 75 x 50 cm (30" x 20")
Code: E15081 (15-081 on box)
Retail price ¥3000 (approx. US$28.04 €23.62 £21.74)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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Golden cockerel
© Izumi Kazumi

1000: Golden cockerel (Kazumi)

The cockerel is said to be auspicious in regard to money matters, and this splendid creature is called "golden" not for the colour of his plumage, but for the golden eggs guarded by his mate. The surroundings are filled with more of the customary symbols of good fortune: pine, bamboo, plum, cherry, and more.

Izumi Kazumi is an animal artist who graduated from Osaka University fine arts department in 1984. Izumi is her family name.

In stock
An Appleone puzzle: 1000 pieces; 75 x 50 cm (30" x 20")
Code: A10792 (1000-792 on box)
Retail price ¥3600 (approx. US$33.64 €28.35 £26.09)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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2016 was the Year of the Monkey

Year of the Monkey
© Mori Seikaku

1500: Year of the Monkey (Seikaku)

A monkey family: Mama, Papa, and three offspring who illustrate the old adage of "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil". They are surrounded by piles of treasure, coins, nuggets, and bars of gold, while rest of the picture is filled with the usual auspicious symbols, from Mount Fuji to the turtle in the foreground.

No biographical details, but the artist Mori Seikaku specialises in animal and flower scroll paintings. He signs his work the traditional way, with the characters for his given (brush) name, Seikaku (lit. 'nest of the crane') and a seal of the same.

* This puzzle has smaller pieces than the standard size.

In stock
An Epoch puzzle: 1500 pieces; 75 x 50 cm (30" x 20")
Code: E15078 (15-078 on box)
Retail price ¥3000 (approx. US$28.04 €23.62 £21.74)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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Year of the monkey
© Izumi Kazumi

1000: Year of the monkey (Kazumi)

The full title of this puzzle is "Difficulties overcome, and problems removed", an elaborate pun, in which the first part matches the name of the plant nandina with the bright red berries, and the second part matches "nine monkeys". And those are what we see in the picture, along with all the usual auspicious signs, from Mount Fuji to the rope-encircled rock.

Izumi Kazumi is an animal artist who graduated from Osaka University fine arts department in 1984. Izumi is her family name.

In stock
An Appleone puzzle: 1000 pieces; 75 x 50 cm (30" x 20")
Code: A10772 (1000-772 on box)
Retail price ¥3600 (approx. US$33.64 €28.35 £26.09)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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Between a tiger and a dragon
© Tanabe Zigen

1000: Between a tiger and a dragon (Zigen)

A monkey dangles precariously from a gnarled tree projecting over the abyss - from above a tiger threatens, below awaits a dragon.

And the meaning of this terrible dilemma? Why, another pun: the Japanese for monkey is saru, which is also a verb meaning "to go away" or "disappear." So the title, literally "great difficulties monkey" also means the auspicious "great difficulties disappear"!

The artist was born in Toyama in 1970, and specialises in showy images, in his own reinterpretation of traditional Japanese themes.

Tanabe is his family name; he signs his paintings with his given name Zigen. Note that the usual Romanisation of this would be "Jigen", but it seems that Zigen may be the artist's own preference.

In stock
A Beverly puzzle: 1000 pieces; 49 x 72 cm (19" x 28")
Code: B61393 (61-393 on box)
Retail price ¥3000 (approx. US$28.04 €23.62 £21.74)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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2014 was the Year of the Horse

Fuji horses
© Row. V. Ogasawara

1000: Fuji horses (Ogasawara)

Two fine steeds gallop below Mount Fuji; Ogasawara's style is soft and flowing yet brings out the muscular strength of the pair. By tradition, we are told, a black horse symbolizes a prayer for rain, and a red horse a prayer for the sun.

Few biographical details are available, but Ogasawara has worked as a background artist for anime production, and specialises in animal portraits.

Recent works by this artist all bear the unexplained copyright declaration "Row. V. Ogasawara." Perhaps "Row" is a nickname, but the initial is a mystery, and on earlier puzzles "Row. E. Ogasawara" has also been seen.

In stock
An Appleone puzzle: 1000 pieces; 75 x 50 cm (30" x 20")
Code: A10474 (1000-474 on box)
Retail price ¥3600 (approx. US$33.64 €28.35 £26.09)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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Good luck!
© Izumi Kazumi

1000: Good luck! (Kazumi)

Kannon sits on a lotus blossom observing this peaceful scene: the white horse has emerged from the golden gourd as if from Aladdin's lamp. The picture is full of symbols of riches, and not one horse, but nine in total — the uma-ku iku in the original title is written "horse-nine go", but is an auspicious pun on the ordinary word umaku, meaning "(go) well".

Izumi Kazumi is an animal artist who graduated from Osaka University fine arts department in 1984. Izumi is her family name.

In stock
An Appleone puzzle: 1000 pieces; 75 x 50 cm (30" x 20")
Code: A10754 (1000-754 on box)
Retail price ¥3600 (approx. US$33.64 €28.35 £26.09)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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Year of the horse
© Youseki Miki

300: Year of the horse (Youseki)

Nine jolly horses, some with riders, one from the nursery, gallop past Mount Fuji. There have to be nine, because this makes everything uma- (horse) ku (nine) iku (go), that is "go well".

Born in Kyushu in 1966, Youseki Miki studied calligraphy, and after graduating from university embarked on a career as a commercial designer. He has developed a distinctive style of illustrated calligraphy with a contemporary, jovial touch. He writes his adopted brush name Youseki with nonstandard romanisation, to be read as the English word "you" plus "seki". (Miki is his family name, and his real name is Izuru.)

In stock
A Beverly puzzle: 300 pieces; 38 x 26 cm (15" x 10")
Code: B63263 (63-263 on box)
Retail price ¥1400 (approx. US$13.08 €11.02 £10.14)
Shipping from ¥600 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$5.61 €4.72 £4.35)
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2013 was the Year of the Snake

Year of the snake
© Mori Seikaku

1500: Year of the Snake (Seikaku)

A white snake is said to be auspicious, bringing good fortune to one who sees it, and here these three spendid specimens are literally accompanied by a pile of gold. All the usual lucky symbols are in the background, from Mount Fuji in the distance to the carp in the foreground pond.

No biographical details, but the artist Mori Seikaku specialises in animal and flower scroll paintings. He signs his work the traditional way, with the characters for his given (brush) name, Seikaku (lit. 'nest of the crane') and a seal of the same.

* This puzzle has smaller pieces than the standard size.

Not available
Discontinued November 2017
An Epoch puzzle: 1500 pieces; 75 x 50 cm (30" x 20")
Code: E15072 (15-072 on box)
Retail price ¥3000
Gold and silver snakes
© Izumi Kazumi

1000: Gold and silver snakes (Kazumi)

Benzaiten, goddess of eloquence, sits with her traditional biwa (a Japanese lute), evidently charming the golden snake in front of her and the silver one wrapped around the pine tree behind here. The pile of treasure beside her testifies to the worldly wealth promised here, and various other auspicious items complete the scene.

Wikipedia article on Benzaiten

Izumi Kazumi is an animal artist who graduated from Osaka University fine arts department in 1984. Izumi is her family name.

In stock
An Appleone puzzle: 1000 pieces; 75 x 50 cm (30" x 20")
Code: A10691 (1000-691 on box)
Retail price ¥3600 (approx. US$33.64 €28.35 £26.09)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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2012 was the Year of the Dragon

Dragons of five colours
© Harai Kayomi / Studio Oz

3000: Dragons of five colours (Kayomi)

This challenging puzzle includes no less than five of Kayomi's fluffy but fierce dragons. Five is the number of ancient Chinese elements, which are associated with the cardinal directions (including "centre"), and also with colours. So the central yellow dragon symbolises imperial authority, and manifests rank by having five claws and holding the magic ball. Around the four corners are the four protectorate dragons: Black to the north, Blue to the east, Red to the south, and White to the west. (These also match with the colours of the four protectorate gods.)

No biographical details available. She signs her given name Kayomi in Roman letters.

* This puzzle has smaller pieces than the standard size.

In stock
An Epoch puzzle: 3000 pieces; 102 x 73 cm (40" x 29")
Code: E21105 (21-105 on box)
Retail price ¥4800 (approx. US$44.86 €37.80 £34.78)
Shipping from ¥2050 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$19.16 €16.14 £14.86)
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Kannon rides the Dragon
© Hojo Yuka / Sankoh

1000: Kannon rides the Dragon

A very matronly Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, stands barefoot amidships on a rather nice dragon. In her left hand she holds a flower (perhaps a lotus flower), while the dragon similarly clutches the symbolic Chintamani Stone (or "treasure ball").

This is a standard pose for Kannon, and this version is subdued in tone yet full of details. The image also includes a complete sutra for the elimination of disasters — this is essentially in Sanskrit transliterated into ancient Chinese, so a typical Japanese reader can make no more meaning of it than you can. Although Kannon is often known as "Goddess of Mercy", experts in Buddhism tell us she is really Avalokitêsvara, who was a man...

In stock
An Appleone puzzle: 1000 pieces; 50 x 75 cm (20" x 30")
Code: A10676 (1000-676 on box)
Retail price ¥3000 (approx. US$28.04 €23.62 £21.74)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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Double dragon
© Beverly

500: Double dragon

Over a sea of tumultuous waves, gold and siver dragons face off, each clutching an auspicious Cintamani stone.

In stock
A Beverly puzzle: 500 pieces; 49 x 36 cm (19" x 14")
Code: B65222 (65-222 on box)
Retail price ¥2000 (approx. US$18.69 €15.75 £14.49)
Shipping from ¥800 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$7.48 €6.30 £5.80)
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Dragon gorge
© Harai Kayomi / Studio Oz

420: Dragon gorge (Kayomi)

Where do dragons come from? There is a gorge called Longmen ("Dragon-gate") on the Yellow River that flows so fast it is said that any carp that managed to swim up it will turn itself into a dragon, the King of the scaly beasts.

This picture is ideally suited to the traditional vertical format. Two carp leap upward, while a confident dragon shows his mettle at the top. This seemingly impossible climb is used as a metaphor for achievement in the world—and there is further good fortune indicated by the combination of pine and carp. (More wordplay: this can be read shôri, which with different characters means "victory".)

No biographical details available. She signs her given name Kayomi in Roman letters.

* This puzzle has smaller pieces than the standard size.

Not available
Discontinued October 2017
An Epoch puzzle: 420 pieces; 18 x 52 cm (7" x 20")
Code: E52138 (52-138 on box)
Retail price ¥1800

2010 was the Year of the Tiger

White tiger
© Inoichiro Sekiguchi

3000: White tiger (Inoichiro)

The white tiger has long been revered as a symbolic agent of the gods - and is one of the "Four deities" of feng shui. This is a graphic portrayal of a powerful, yet somehow unthreatening, animal.

No details of this artist are readily available. He signs his paintings with a seal for the first character ('Ino') of his given name only: this means 'wild boar', which might seem surprising, but it is a fairly common element in names.

* This puzzle has smaller pieces than the standard size.

In stock
An Epoch puzzle: 3000 pieces; 73 x 102 cm (29" x 40")
Code: E21102 (21-102 on box)
Retail price ¥4800 (approx. US$44.86 €37.80 £34.78)
Shipping from ¥1950 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$18.22 €15.35 £14.13)
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White tiger
© Inoichiro Sekiguchi

2016: White tiger (Inoichiro)

The white tiger has long been revered as a symbolic agent of the gods - and is one of the "Four deities" of feng shui. This is a graphic portrayal of a powerful, yet somehow unthreatening, animal.

Detail

No details of this artist are readily available. He signs his paintings with a seal for the first character ('Ino') of his given name only: this means 'wild boar', which might seem surprising, but it is a fairly common element in names.

* This puzzle has smaller pieces than the standard size.

In stock
An Epoch puzzle: 2016 pieces; 50 x 75 cm (20" x 30")
Code: E23007 (23-007 on box)
Retail price ¥3000 (approx. US$28.04 €23.62 £21.74)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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White tiger and red bamboo
© Kano Yuho

1000: White tiger and red bamboo (Yuho)

An impressive white tiger among the bamboo, but also an image laden with symbolism; its original title is literally "White tiger warding off disaster." The key on the side of the box lists the items as follows:

  1. White tiger
  2. Red bamboo
  3. Quartz: the large crystals in the lower right corner
  4. Magic spell

The magic spell is written vertically in the upper part of the picture. Sometimes known as "The Disaster Preventing Dharani," where a Dharani is something longer than a mantra and shorter than a sutra, it consists of transliterated Sanskrit, so has no immediate meaning to a Japanese speaker. But you can chant it something like this:

No mo san man da moto nan
Oha ra chi koto sha sono nan
To ji to en gya gya gya ki gya ki un nun
Shifu ra shifu ra hara shifu ra hara shifu ra
Chishu sa chishu sa chishu ri chishu ri
Sowa ja sowa ja
Sen chi gya shiri ei somo ko

No biographical details for this craft-artist, Kanō Yūhō. He signs as is traditional with his given (brush) name Yūhō and a seal.

In stock
An Appleone puzzle: 1000 pieces; 50 x 75 cm (20" x 30")
Code: A10695 (1000-695 on box)
Retail price ¥3000 (approx. US$28.04 €23.62 £21.74)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.45 £8.70)
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White tiger of the west
© Harai Kayomi / Studio Oz

450: White tiger of the west (Kayomi)

The white tiger, protector god of the west, looking suitably fierce, yet in Kayomi's characteristically soft style. The box includes the characters for 'West: white tiger', and the Chinese reading 'Bai-hu' for "White tiger."

No biographical details available. She signs her given name Kayomi in Roman letters.

* This puzzle has smaller pieces than the standard size.

In stock
An Epoch puzzle: 450 pieces; 38 x 26 cm (15" x 10")
Code: E08038 (08-038 on box)
Retail price ¥1400 (approx. US$13.08 €11.02 £10.14)
Shipping from ¥600 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$5.61 €4.72 £4.35)
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What is this "Lucky"?

There is a great tradition in Japan of paintings combining elements considered to bring good fortune. Some of these themes are obvious enough, such as Mt. Fuji, or the characters of the twelve-year Chinese calendar cycle, but others rely on wordplay in Japanese. For example, nanten, the plant sometimes known as "Heavenly bamboo", sounds the same as Chinese characters nan meaning "troubles", and ten meaning "to (over)turn", so it has gained an association with overcoming difficulties. This is rather as if in English-speaking countries we painted four people playing the flute, and said it meant "four-tune".

The philosophical underpinnings of all this are rather diffuse. There does not seem to be any direct connection to Buddhism, but ancient Chinese mythology, and miscellaneous folk beliefs have all been brought into play. Mark Schumacher's "Buddhist Corner" pages are a wonderful source of information.

All of the puzzles on this page relate to the successive years of the Chinese calendar animal cycle. For more pictures in this auspicious genre, try the following other pages...

The Imaginatorium's resident Blinkered Empiricist has issued a disclaimer: These are attractive puzzles, but we make no claim that they will have any supernatural effect whatsoever!

Deleted puzzles

For reference: you can view all the puzzles from this page that have gone out of print in the Attic.

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