July 7, 2010

Puzzle-In Visit

I've been posting some non-puzzling details of our trip to Japan so far in my travel blog here since I didn't want to clutter up this blog with tales of sightseeing in Japan. However, today we went to Naoyuki Iwase's puzzle shop in Kyoto, Puzzle-In (葉樹林), which was a ton of fun.

We had a bit of trouble finding it: it was raining and we were a distance away, so we decided to take a cab. However, the cab driver didn't quite know where it was and ended up dropping us off about 3 blocks away saying that it was nearby. We looked around, and couldn't find it, so we wandered in the direction where I thought it was, based on the map on the Puzzle-In website.

We showed the address to a few people, but they didn't know where it was. Luckily, Kellian and I stumbled across a post office and, amazingly, one of the postal workers actually walked outside with us and walked with us for a block to get us headed in the right direction (since we clearly spoke no Japanese and she didn't speak much English). Sure enough, we found it!

Much to our dismay, the sign in the doorway said that it was closed! Undaunted, we poked our heads in, since the door was actually open.

Sure enough, a friendly fellow welcomed us in. I introduced myself and said that I was an IPP attendee, and he introduced himself as Naoyuki Iwase, but said that his friends called him Osho.

The shop was pretty amazing: it was completely jammed full with puzzles. The assortment was so incredible that I asked Osho if some were part of his collection. It turned out that the back 2/3 of the shop was his personal collection, which made more sense. His collection was really incredible, there must have been thousands of puzzles packed on the shelves and hanging from the walls.

This photo was taken facing the back of the shop, and gives you a pretty good idea of how many puzzles there are. On the left, and above the doorway, you can  see he has a bunch of disentanglement puzzles. On the right are all sorts of assembly puzzles. Through the doorway was a glass cabinet full of puzzle boxes, impossible objects, and various other things.

Here's a photo of the front of the shop, it is much smaller than the other area but there are a bunch of cool puzzles for sale, many of which were designed by Osho himself! I hardly knew where to start looking.

Kellian and I started off by looking at Osho's incredible collection. There were some puzzles that I recognized, and tons that I hadn't. Osho particularly enjoys impossible objects, and he showed us a few of them. Here's Osho showing an impossible object he created to Kellian.

This was completely baffling: the two fake bills were seemingly woven together. I have absolutely no idea how he could have done this. It was quite clear that it hadn't been cut and re-attached, and it doesn't seem like there is any other way to do it. As Osho would exclaim after showing us each one: "Impossible!"

I spotted a few tops that he had, and asked if he knew Stephen Chin, another puzzle enthusiast who was a fan of tops. He said that he did not, but pulled out a box of neat tops. One that I had never seen before was a Japanese design that sort of wobbles on its side and shows a short animation while doing so. Very cool! I didn't get a photo, but here's another design that has a similar property. You 'spin' it by pressing down rapidly on one side with your finger. It was made out of two film canisters glued together. Depending on which side you press, the animation is different.

Here's a photo of one corner of his collection. There were all sorts of interesting puzzles: some of the Sandfield  brothers' dovetail puzzles, Marcel Gillen puzzles, Bill Cutler, and a number of things I didn't recognize. On the right is the cabinet containing a bunch of impossible objects. There were also a lot of Japanese puzzle boxes, including some Kamei originals like the Hamburger, Dice Box, Stacked Disks, and Coffee Cup.

On the shelves I noticed this interesting version of the Instant Insanity puzzle that uses coins rather than colors. I know Rob Stegmann is a fan of this puzzle, so I snapped a picture in case he hasn't seen it already. Sorry I didn't get all the sides so you could draw the graph and see if it is isomorphic to the original!

After checking out his collection for a while, we headed up to the front of his shop to see what he had for sale. There were a bunch of puzzles that I hadn't seen before, many of which were his own design. He has created a number of tray packing puzzles, as well as burrs.

One of which was called Cat Puzzle, and had four cat-shaped polyomino pices that you had to pack into the tray. He said it was very hard and that I could have it as a present if I could solve it. I was intrigued but figured it must be really difficult if he would make such an offer. I spent about 20 minutes or so working on it, but didn't have much luck. I would have worked on it for longer, but didn't want to bore him and Kellian, so I ended up buying it.

I also saw that he was selling a Japanese version of Lunar Lockout by ThinkFun, so I decided to buy that as well. I hadn't seen it for sale in a while, so I thought this would be a good chance to get it at a reasonable price.

Also, I noticed that he was selling Rubik's Clock, which I also haven't seen for sale much, so I decided to pick that up as well. There was a ton of other stuff I would have bought, but I figured I better take it easy with the puzzle party coming up. There are sure to be a bunch of other puzzles I'm going to want to buy!

I was able to solve this one in about 30 minutes when I got back to the hotel, which I was pretty pleased about. I like these types of sequential movement puzzles (when I can figure them out!)

Osho was kind enough to give me a neat piece of origami folded by his friend Fuku-shima. It is flat, and when you hold it up to the light it looks ilke a 5x5x5 cube! He had all sorts of other combinations of dimensions, but I liked the cube the best. Very neat! He also gave Kellian the little spinny doodad that he is holding in the photo above.

What a fun trip! I'm glad that we made it over to his store while we were in Kyoto. It will be cool to see Osho again once the IPP gets under way. I can hardly wait!


  1. Wow! What a shop! I'd be like a kid in a candy store! It's hard to resist purchasing too many but you were wise to restrain since there's so much more you will see when IPP begins! Many others will be scoping out good spots so keep your ears open! So cool!

  2. Oh! And thanks for purchasing Lunar Lockout! The box will be a great conversation piece too!

  3. Tanya,

    Yeah, it was pretty amazing! I had a great time looking through Osho's shop and collection. He's such a nice fellow! I've made it about halfway through Lunar Lockout...it is pretty tricky!


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