Imaginatorium Shop
Covid-19: Shop status

We are gradually beginning to accept orders, but with very limited shipping options, which we have to handle manually. Please use the checkout form to request puzzles, and we will get back to you when we can. Please see below for more details.

Jigsaw puzzles from Japan

Titles in stock:
1053
Around 2500 by special order

Welcome to the Imaginatorium Shop, now in our eighteenth year!

From our base in Japan (here!), we send jigsaw puzzles anywhere in the world. Most of the hundreds of puzzles we have in stock feature oriental themes, but the high quality of Japanese-made puzzles (exquisite printing, really solid card stock, and clean cutting) also makes "reverse imports" highly desirable — puzzles of Peanuts, Disney, and lots of other Western characters popular in Japan. In general, if a puzzle is available in Japan, we can get it for you within a week or so - see the special orders page.

Covid-19: Shop status updates

May 12th: progress at last! We are restarting limited shipping. A few countries (e.g. Singapore and Canada) are accepting airmail, but in most cases we can either send by Yamato courier or by surface mail. There are other countries (e.g. Indonesia, New Zealand) to which all mail including surface is halted, and also Yamato does not serve all countries. And we expect the situation to keep changing.

As well as having a huge backlog of puzzle requests to address, we are having supply problems. Ironically, the pandemic has brought record sales of jigsaw puzzles (as people work out how to live indoors!) and the manufacturers are battling to keep up production to meet demand.

So for the time being, please use the form on the checkout page to make a request for puzzles. The options are more suitable for quantity orders, and it will help if you indicate whether you are looking for (relative) speed, at higher than the normal cost, or economy, which will take even longer than normal.

Tracking examples

To give you a more concrete idea of the problems, here are some sample tracking records from packages we have sent recently. From mid-May some packages have actually arrived!

One thing to notice is that it seems that surface is hardly affected, and in some cases may be as quick as airmail. Note that mail from here (Sano) normally goes to the regional centre in Utsunomiya, then to the port, either Tokyo for airmail or Kawasaki for surface. Surface is naturally slower, and when operating normally there is a long gap (a month or more) between being cleared through Kawasaki and arriving at the destination port.

Mail
type
JapanDestination country
SanoTransitPort
PortTransitCustomer
EMS30 March1 April
2 April8 April deliveredUK
EMS7 April28 April
30 April 1 May deliveredUSA
EMS16 April16 AprilWaiting in UtsunomiyaUSA
Airmail 31 March
13 May delivered Malaysia
Airmail31 March1 April
2 AprilWaiting in FrankfurtGermany
Airmail9 AprilWaiting in SanoUSA
Airmail9 April 5 May
8 May 18 May 18 May deliveredMalaysia
SALFrom mid-MarchAll returned to sender
Surface30 March1 April
14 May Jakarta Indonesia
Surface13 April14 AprilThrough Kawasaki portCanada

As of 18 May (dates from May in red)

Timeline

April 1st Post Office announces no air service to 153 countries, and for 27 of them no surface either.

April 10th Post Office announces more countries closed (including air to Australia).

April 13th Sano main post office has a mountain of our returned packages (mostly SAL). which have been returned. April 17th Delivered back to us!

April 23rd Post Office adds US to list of destinations not being accepted.

April 27th Another (smaller) batch of packages is returned to us. These were all sent to Thailand in mid-March.

May 18th We restart sending orders, mostly by surface.

Other issues
  • May 19th We just received an inventory list from Tenyo: at least 60% of all puzzles are out of stock, and almost all of the 1000-piece ones. Frames are also almost all unavailable. It is likely to be some time before this situation improves.
  • Similar inventory situation at Epoch, Beverly, and Ensky. Looks like 95% of Totoro puzzles unavailable.
  • Many Tenyo prices have been increased, by around 5-10%. We will hold the existing prices at least until things start moving again.
  • May 20th: IATA says that air travel will not return to normal until 2023. I think this makes it very unlikely that SAL economy services will return before then.

Please also see more details below

(Puzzle of the month suspended)

Latest additions

More for maniac-level puzzle fans!

New kimono puzzles from artist Haruyo

Latest Peanuts!

And more...

Chit-chat

Brian Chandler

—May—

Half-way through May, and we have made some progress. We can now send orders of puzzles, at least to some countries, but with very restricted choices for shipping. Except for a very few countries (Singapore, for example) there are no normal air services, so the choices are either to use surface mail, or the Yamato courier service. Neither of these options is really oriented to small orders (a single 1000 pc puzzle, for example), and for various reasons we have to calculate shipping costs manually. It always helps if you say whether you are looking for maximum economy, or want puzzles as soon as possible.

SAL This is easily the most popular shipping method over the span of our existence: I can't remember what "SAL" stands for, and each country seems to have a different name, but this is the Japan Post economy air service. Currently it is suspended everywhere, and since the Post Office relies enormously on plentiful spare freight space on commercial airliners, it is not going to return very soon. From experience of similar suspensions in individual countries, I think it is likely to be at least a year before we could hope to go back to what was "normal service".

So what are the alternatives?

Surface for economy

Surface mail is normally slow: typically taking between one and two months to most locations, and if anything, extra delays are very likely. We can offer the surface parcel rate: this depends on the total weight and the destination, but for a single 1000-piece puzzle you can expect to pay 50-80% of the cost of the puzzle. But if you buy four puzzles instead, that cost will only be roughly double. And for a large order of 6 or 8 puzzles, there is real economy!

Note that surface is not available to some countries, including Spain, Chile, Argentina, and Indonesia.

Yamato courier for (relative) speed

We are experimenting with Yamato, who offer an international extension of the immensely popular domestic takkyūbin parcel service. In normal times this is comparable to EMS, taking 5-7 days to get anywhere, but generally costing somewhat more. Currently the service is at least operating (unlike EMS to most countries), but subject to delay of "some weeks". In other words, it is probably likely to take longer than SAL, our normal economy option, but cost more than EMS, our normal express service. But at least it should be faster than surface.

A special problem with Yamato is the pricing. For ordinary domestic service, they take the sum of the dimensions of the package in centimetres, and have a scale of 60, 80, 100, 120, 140, or 160 cm for the "size". Each step costs 10%-20% more than the previous one, so there are no sudden jumps. But they have used the same system for international rates, with bizarre results. For example, a Beverly 1000-piece puzzle to the US costs 2750 yen, while most Epoch puzzles cost 4650 yen. Every other pricing scheme I have ever seen uses weight, because this is the critical factor for air freight. But this system depends above all on the shape of the package. The closer to a cube, the more volume for a given rate, while most puzzle boxes of course are a relatively flat shape. But pile them up to make a near-cube, and there you go: shipping five Beverly puzzles costs the same as one Epoch one. And frames will be outrageous...

Supply problems

Meanwhile, the boom in puzzle sales means that we simply cannot get stock of many or even most items. More updates on this to follow...

—Recent news (April)—

Furano flowers puzzle

This blog entry all started in February. It was going to be titled something like "Hobbies": Do I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles? What are my other interests? The answers in short are "Yes", and "Music". The puzzle on the right is a 2500-piece horror that I started at New Year, (with the help of some of the family!) and only finished sometime in February. I really had not realised that those slabs of colour were going to be quite a struggle. And music? Well, I play the piano (classical romantic and a bit of Bach), sing in a local choir, and also dabble in composition. So to celebrate our family's 30 years in Sano, I was to have my own concert (very small scale; a friend has a wonderful "salon" with two grand pianos and room for about 90 people) in March. We even printed flyers – in Japanese of course, but you can one see here. All this was swept away by the first wave of coronavirus infection...

So now here we are, in not-quite-lockdown. All across Asia the effect of the pandemic has been much lighter than the terrible effects in Europe and North America. No-one quite knows why, although I think it is obvious there is no single simple cause, but a combination of factors. Almost everyone wears a mask, because it is the normal thing to do if you have a cold; it means that if you sneeze you are not spraying other people with germs, virus-laden water droplets, or whatever. And there's the BCG strain, and so on and so on. The Japanese government has been somewhat shambolic as usual, gently calling for "restraint" rather than imposing draconian regulations. But as for everyone else, it is still very unclear how things will go.

We had quite a surge in sales in late March, and heard anecdotes of a sales boom from places as far apart as the Netherlands and Thailand; fairly clearly many people stuck indoors have turned to a puzzle to pass the time. But then crash!

On 1st April, the Post Office gave us a list of 150-something countries no longer accepting any airmail items, and some of them no surface mail either. And the SAL economy airmail service (most popular option at our checkout) has completely stopped; there was a warning of packages possibly being returned... And yesterday (17th April), a Post Office van came round with a mountain of our packages, back to square one. We hope to resend these eventually, and if you are one of the unlucky customers, I will be in touch within a few days.

Meanwhile, we tried following the list: this is not the clearest, because it only ever lists countries as not providing some service or services. We have sent a number of orders to the US, UK, and one or two other countries not listed, but checking the tracking information for these shows that in practice the whole system is clogged up, and nothing is moving. We will keep monitoring progress; perhaps services will resume country by country, but I rather expect we will be unable to send more until May.

Please bear with us: you can request puzzles using the checkout form, and we will try to be ready to send orders as soon as it is possible. Meanwhile, please stay safe, so we can all see this through.

Read more of these blog entries

Mural

About ordering

The details under each puzzle show the price, with approximate equivalents in US dollars, euros, and pounds sterling. Click "Buy this puzzle" to go straight to the checkout with a single puzzle, or "Add to basket" to carry on shopping. At the checkout, you can select the shipping method, then choose how you are going to buy the puzzle(s). If you have any questions or problems, just use the forms provided to ask, and we'll get back to you. Once we receive confirmation of a payment, we aim to despatch puzzles by the next working day.

PayPal (verified member) You do not need to create a PayPal account in order to make a payment; the total is in yen, but you will be charged in your 'home currency', and you will be able to check the final amount before confirming payment.

Credit cardseChecks
You can pay by major credit card, eCheck in the US,
and bank transfer in many countries.

As you can see in the pile of puzzles on the left, most of the writing on the box is in Japanese, so we also include printed details with each shipment. Click these thumbnails for descriptions...

(Sorry! You can't see the "pile of boxes", because your browser does not support the functions necessary.)
thumbnail thumbnail thumbnail thumbnail thumbnail
Finally...

The Shop is only part of my website, the Imaginatorium - I hope you will have time to explore some of the other pages!

 
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