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Tokyo Toy Show

Blog entry for June 2011

June 17: Off to Tokyo again for the annual Toy Show. A surprisingly chilly day given that the summer had already started. We arrived as usual on the futuristic (if not particularly fast) Yuri-kamome overhead railway at the "Big Sight" exhibition centre.

The mood was somewhat subdued, as it has been generally since the earthquake disaster of March. My impression was that the number of exhibitors was slightly down, and the number of attendees down significantly (this was one of the trade days, so no families, and almost entirely business representatives). One of the Epoch people told us that the number of visitors from overseas had fallen dramatically, and indeed there were very few overseas trade organisations exhibiting.

We went to the Epoch exhibit first: dominated by the display of marine fantasy artist Christian Riese Lassen, recently captured from Beverly. Although there were plenty of puzzles on display, I was slightly disappointed that some of the many new puzzles features recently introduced by Epoch were not available for close inspection: I would like to look at samples of the double-sided puzzles, for example. Anyway, the latest Epoch catalog arrived the other day, and it is very impressive: the largest ever, at 190 pages, more than 30% up on last year. And there are still more new features coming soon, including "Find the mistakes", with a certain number of discrepancies with the picture on the box. (Sadly this one won't work for me, because I never look at the picture while doing a puzzle...)

After Epoch, which is a general toy company, we went to see the puzzle specialist Beverly. Despite losing their star artist to Epoch, there was nothing down-hearted about the display. Lots and lots of puzzles: in addition to traditional jigsaw puzzles, mosaic puzzles, micro-pieces, and other variants, they produce a series of "solid puzzles", crystal plastic pieces that build an apple, a horse, a castle, or a replica of Tokyo "Sky Tree", the building that finally dwarfs Tokyo Tower. (Actually there was a lot of "Sky Tree" everywhere else as well...) Overall, Beverly's was the most impressive display.

The other puzzle specialist is Yanoman, whose range has improved after a quiet patch a few years ago. They do have a tendency to produce new ideas which do not persist, and were exhibiting "4-D" map puzzles, of which more details later perhaps. Tenyo is the only company with a puzzle history to match that of Yanoman, and was showing the usual combination of Disney puzzles and magic tricks (the magic dates back even before the puzzles). Look out for the wide range of heart-shaped puzzles which we should have soon.

Not so much was new from Apollo and Ensky (Artbox), but Artbox and Beverly have now joined the postcard-puzzle explosion, so there will be more of these soon.

So a slightly downbeat day, but well worth the trip.

Brian Chandler

"A kind of blog..." My sporadic comments, mostly topical, on shop matters. (Brian Chandler)