Imaginatorium Shop

Jigsaw puzzles from Japan

Mountain roads

Feature page for April 2007

Travel in the 1690s The picture on the right is part of a drawing made by Engelbert Kaempfer, explorer and physician, of the Dutch delegation of which he was a member on its way to meet the Shogun in Edo (modern Tokyo). This journey, of around 1000 km, was made partly by ship across the Inland Sea, but the remainder overland - and with not a wheel in sight. The coastline of Japan is almost unremittingly hostile, and therefore the main communications network consisted of often tortuous routes through the mountains, leaving legs as the only plausible means of locomotion. For many this meant walking, but Kaempfer himself rode a horse, and the most privileged simply sat in a palanquin and were carried.

Of course this network has long fallen into disuse, replaced first by winding roads, now by almost straight tunnels, but all shifting away from the original to more accessible lines. Thus many traces remain, and some of the routes have become ways of pilgrimage, providing a well-preserved taste of times gone by.

Kumano old road
© Apollo-sha
Position map

300: Kumano old road

A well-preserved old tea-house on this historic road - an old pilgrimage route through the mountains, which is now a World Heritage site.

In stock
An Apollo puzzle: 300 pieces; 26 x 38 cm (10" x 15")
Code: P48648 (48-648 on box)
Retail price ¥1200 (approx. US$11.21 €9.52 £8.51)
Shipping from ¥600 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$5.61 €4.76 £4.26)
Buy this puzzle Add to basket
All about ordering (please read first)
Tsumago - old post town
© Epoch
Position map

300: Tsumago - old post town

Amazingly well-preserved buildings line this street in Tsumago, a staging point where the old Nakasendo road begins to climb over the Japan Alps.

Kanji sign Kanji sign

On the right is the famous Matsushiroya inn - here's how to read the signs in the picture. The juku means "a place to stay", referring to the town's status as a staging point.

In stock
An Epoch puzzle: 300 pieces; 38 x 26 cm (15" x 10")
Code: E25116 (25-116 on box)
Retail price ¥1200 (approx. US$11.21 €9.52 £8.51)
Shipping from ¥500 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$4.67 €3.97 £3.55)
Buy this puzzle Add to basket
All about ordering (please read first)

More mountain roads?

Position map

Well, no, this is the beautifully preserved Kintai bridge in western Japan, dating from the same era as Kaempfer's travels. But the gracefully looping roadway was plainly designed for the non-wheeled caravans making their way over the mountain routes.

 
Kintai bridge
© Epoch

2016: Kintai bridge

This bridge is a landmark of western Japan, with both red maples and cherry trees planted alongside, for gorgeous pictures in all seasons. We are told that the name Kintaikyô - or "Brocade sash bridge" - is derived from a resemblance to a kimono sash. This is pretty unconvincing, until you realise that the river under the bridge is Nishikigawa: this Nishiki is the Japanese reading for "brocade", written with the same Chinese character as the Kin in Kintai.

The bridge consists of five wooden arches: at the time it was originally built (1673), wheeled transport was almost unknown in Japan, so presumably it was not worthwhile going to the extra effort of providing a level roadway. It seems unlikely that this design would have been used in Europe at that time.

Matsumoto-san's excellent photographs of the bridge (in Japanese)
Hokusai's painting (Interesting to see his perception of the stone pillars: compare my essay on walls. And for more than you ever needed to know about bridges, read J. E. Gordon.)

* This puzzle has smaller pieces than the standard size.

In stock
An Epoch puzzle: 2016 pieces; 75 x 50 cm (30" x 20")
Code: E23535 (23-535 on box)
Retail price ¥2500 (approx. US$23.36 €19.84 £17.73)
Shipping from ¥1200 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$11.21 €9.52 £8.51)
Buy this puzzle Add to basket
All about ordering (please read first)
Kintai bridge with cherry blossom
© Apollo-sha

450: Kintai bridge with cherry blossom

This bridge is a landmark of western Japan, with both red maples and cherry trees planted alongside, for gorgeous pictures in all seasons. The name of the river is Nishikigawa, or "Brocade river", and the name of this bridge suggests it is like the sash of a kimono.

The bridge consists of five wooden arches: at the time it was originally built (1673), wheeled transport was almost unknown in Japan, so presumably it was not worthwhile going to the extra effort of providing a level roadway. It seems unlikely that this design would have been used in Europe at that time.

* This puzzle has smaller pieces than the standard size.

Not available
Discontinued June 2017
An Apollo puzzle: 450 pieces; 38 x 26 cm (15" x 10")
Code: P46217 (46-217 on box)
Retail price ¥1200
Kintai bridge
© Epoch

300: Kintai bridge

This bridge is a landmark of western Japan, with both red maples and cherry trees planted alongside, for gorgeous pictures in all seasons. We are told that the name Kintaikyô - or "Brocade sash bridge" - is derived from a resemblance to a kimono sash. This is pretty unconvincing, until you realise that the river under the bridge is Nishikigawa: this Nishiki is the Japanese reading for "brocade", written with the same Chinese character as the Kin in Kintai.

The bridge consists of five wooden arches: at the time it was originally built (1673), wheeled transport was almost unknown in Japan, so presumably it was not worthwhile going to the extra effort of providing a level roadway. It seems unlikely that this design would have been used in Europe at that time.

In stock
An Epoch puzzle: 300 pieces; 38 x 26 cm (15" x 10")
Code: E25128 (25-128 on box)
Retail price ¥1200 (approx. US$11.21 €9.52 £8.51)
Shipping from ¥500 (N. America, Europe, Australasia: approx. US$4.67 €3.97 £3.55)
Buy this puzzle Add to basket
All about ordering (please read first)