Japanese-Games-Shop.com News

Japanese-Games-Shop.com News keeps you updated on the latest offers and developments at Hirohurl's Japanese Goods shop, http://www.japanese-games-shop.com

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Pellucid & Energetic" Shogi Pieces Delicately Hand Carved On Japanese Boxwood

Here are some photos of a "ryoukobori" style hand carved shogi set. "Ryoukobori" is a particularly delicate calligraphic font style which requires an immense amount of skill and concentration on the part of the craftsman.

I took these photos with the camera on my mobile phone the last time I visited my shogi supplier. We did not take the pieces (shogi-koma) out of their wrappers, so the photos are not the best and there is a lot of reflected light.

Even so, I think you can get a good idea of the quality of workmanship that goes into creating a hand-carved set of shogi pieces.

The shogi pieces photographed here have been carved out of Japanese boxwood ("tsuge"). Japanese boxwood is highly prized by craftsmen for its warm tone and fine grain.

On a high quality set the craftsman carves his name in the rear edge of one of the kings. On even higher quality sets the calligraphic style of the characters is carved on the rear edge of the other king.

In the photo on the left, the upper king has been engraved with "ryoukobori" and the lower king has been engraved with the name of "craftsman Sanpo," one of Japan's top shogi-koma makers.

I recently shipped a set of "ryoukobori" shogi pieces to a customer in America, and this is what he had to say about them when he received them:

"They are absolutely beautiful! You're right, the Japanese boxwood does have a warmer tone to it, also a tighter grain. And I keep wanting to call them "pellucid"-- I know the term doesn't strictly apply to an opaque two-dimensional surface, but as I look at the pieces the word somehow keeps coming into my mind. And the Japanese characters (to this Iowan whose "reading comprehension" of Japanese begins and ends with Shogi pieces!) have a very elegant & energetic look to them...

"The energetic aspect of the kanji on these pieces is something that comes forth more and more strongly to me, the more I look at them. " Paul Burgess

If you would like to order a set of hand carved shogi-koma, check out the range on offer on this page of my website.

As soon as I receive an order I contact my supplier and they will be carefully packed and shipped directly to your door by Express Mail Service from Japan.

David Hurley

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Introducing the "Take" Mahjong Set

The start of the year has certainly been busy and hectic (just how we like it at Japanese-Games-Shop.com). "Your Man In Japan" has been toiling away the hours on research, purchasing, adding new items to the range, publicizing them, dealing with new orders, packing parcels and hauling them to the post office, once it opened after the winter holidays...

Packing and hauling... packing and hauling... packing and hauling...

This week I have been holding two extended conversations with my suppliers and clients; one about a fine set of Japanese boxwood shogi pieces (report to follow soon), and the other about a new mahjong set that I have just added to my site. One moment I'm getting into the details of how different mahjong sets measure up to each other, and the next I'm admiring some finely crafted Shogi pieces, while trying to work out what my long-suffering supplier is telling me about the craftsman who made the set...

It was a bit of a shock when these pleasant activities were rudely interrupted by the beginning of college term and Your Man In Japan had to turn his attention back to the classroom. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching, but my New Year's Resolution is to take on no more teaching contracts and gradually whittle my teaching schedule down to just a few hours a week so that I can devote myself to my expanding my online activities. The last time I counted, I had five blogs and as many websites up and running and several domain names secured for further expansion... Here's a list of my active websites

Introducing the "Take" Mahjong Set

The mahjong set I have been checking out this week was called to my attention by a player in Holland who wanted to know whether it was as good as it looked. I ordered a set from the supplier and put it through its paces...

Click the photo to enlarge

The "Take" (pronounced "TA-KEH" with the stress on the first syllable) mahjong is a mid-range set which is designed with ease of handling and smooth play in mind.

The Tiles

The tiles are noticably brighter than the standard "off white" colouring so the faces are clear and easy to read. The tiles are also a little bigger than the standard Japanese size, measuring 19mm x 29.5mm x 15mm.

Click the photo to enlarge

Mahjong manufacturers often design a slight convexity into the back of the tiles and add a "notch" in the sides to represent bamboo. The designers of the Take set have dropped these features in favour of a slightly flatter back which makes for more stable walls! The tiles are also slightly lighter than average.

Click the photo to enlarge

In the above photo you can see three tiles from three different Japanese mahjong sets. The one on the left is a standard Japanese mahjong tile, the middle one is from an exclusive set sold under the label of the Mahjong Museum in Chiba-ken. The tile on the right is from the "Take" set. As you will notice, it is slightly larger and brighter in finish than the other two.

The tiles are standing on a wall of "Take" tiles.

Click the photo to enlarge

The quality of the detailed paint work is also good - this is one of the most important considerations when I select mahjong sets for my site. I'm pleased to say that the paint work is good and accurate.

The tiles shown in the picture above are the Spring Season tile and the Red 5-Coin, which also has an "embedded jewel" replacing the middle coin.

Click the photo to enlarge

The "Take" tile is closest to the camera in the last picture.

Other Features of the Set

The set comes with plastic trays, seven dice of two different sizes, standard sized scoring sticks plus some extra counting chips, a wind marker PLUS a novelty "Black West Tile" keyring!!

The case is made of standard quality plastic, with poppers and a handle. On the back there is the logo of the set in yellow.

Order a Set

To order a "Take" mahjong set, click here. Delivery is by Express Mail Service, which includes tracking and insurance and, as a rule, gets the goods to your door within a week of the shipping date.

David Hurley

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy 2008 From Japanese-Games-Shop.com!

Happy New Year from Hiroshima, Japan and everybody at Japanese-Games-Shop.com!

By "everybody", I mean just "me" because Japanese-Games-Shop.com is a one-gaijin show!

...And the reason why I haven't posted on this blog or added anything new to the website for a while is because my nose was firmly attached to the grindstone in the run up to Christmas. As you can see in the photo below, the site has been getting a lot of traffic...!

Japanese-Games-Shop.com has been attracting a lot of traffic recently!
New Years Resolution: Add more stuff to Japanese-Games-Shop.com

Now that the New Year has arrived I have found some time to expand the range of products. This month I am concentrating on manga and have added three new lines already.

Crayon Shin Chan
I must admit that this is one of my all time favourite manga series. It was a huge hit in Japan in the 1990's - yeah, I was here then too, so I remember it well. I even bought a Shin-chan character bottle of bubble bath to take back to the U.K. as a memento, but my sojourn in Japan has outlasted both the bubble bath and the bottle...

Crayon Shin Chan is a nursery school kid who indulges in thoroughly "inappropriate" (ghastly word) speech and behaviour. The manga was originally aimed at the adult market, but once it was turned into a television cartoon is became immensely popular with kids too, doubtless because they take great delight in identifying with, and most likely copying, Shin-chan's impertinence and lack of decorum.

If you study written Japanese then this comic will be a stimulating and enjoyable challenge to your reading comprehension skills. The basic dialogue uses a lot of everyday language and common expressions, but there is also a lot of word-play as Shin-chan inadvertently - or deliberately - makes linguistic blunders that embarrass his parents or outrage whoever else happens to be in ear-shot of them... However, like many manga, the kanji characters are drawn with furigana syllables down the side to aid reading comprehension.


This is a very different calibre of manga... Nobunaga is one of the greatest Samurai generals of Japanese history. The manga series is a dramatic retelling of his life and struggles.

The illustrator, Ryouichi Ikegami, deserves to be better known in the West. In 2001, he won the Shogakukan Manga Award for general manga as the artist of another manga series called "Heat", which I will shortly be adding to my manga listings...

The language level of this series is quite demanding, partly because of the historical material it deals with and partly because of the lack of supporting furigana. This is a manga series for big boys and girls!

Howl's Moving Castle

This is the comic version of the 2004 animated film, "Hauru No Ugoki-Shiro", directed by possibly the greatest animation artist of this generation, Hayao Miyazaki.

The Japanese animation film is an adaptation of a young adult fantasy novel by British author Diana Wynne Jones. It broke box office records in Japan, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

The film-comic series faithfully reproduces the animation in full-colour. If you are not familiar with the film, check here for a synopsis and some nice stills.

The Japanese dialogue in the film-comic is relatively straightforward and every kanji character is supported by furigana.

The nice thing about these comics is that they are Printed in full colour on good quality paper.

David Hurley

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