Tag Archives: Zootoyz

Exchange Rates: Great Time to Buy Kits from Japan

If inflation and econimics have been getting to you, there’s one positive aspect of it all right now if you’re in the U.S. and have any interest at all in Woody Joe kits, or any other Japanese products for that matter: The exchange rate of the dollar vs. the yen is the highest it’s been in 20 years.

Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen

Just last year, the exchange rate was ¥105 to the dollar. As of today, July 30, 2022, the exchange rate is ¥133 to the dollar. That’s like getting close to 27% off on your orders from Japan. This makes it a great time to buy the Woody Joe kit you’ve been thinking about.

For example, Woody Joe’s Higaki Kaisen kit, illustrated above, sells for ¥28,000 on (actually a little less after the online shop’s standard discount). Last year, the price was about $267. Right now, it’s about $210. Of course, shipping costs are high, so that’s an important consideration, but the exchange rate should help to make up for that.

If you buy from Japan, you should shop from whatever vendor you’re most comfortable with, but as always, I highly recommend the Zootoyz web shop, as service is excellent, shipping is quick, and the owner is a great guy: Zootoyz.jp. This is a great source for Woody Joe kits

Tosa Wasen kit from Thermal Studio

Of course, Woody Joe kits aren’t the only products you might want to be buying from Japan, but they are what I know. Also, among my past projects is an excellent kit from Thermal Studio in Japan, a 1/10 scale model of a traditional Japanese boat. It lists for ¥17,600 or about $133. You can see my post about purchasing the kit from 2016 here: https://shipmodeler.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/buying-the-tosa-wasen-kit/

Hope this works out to be an opportunity for some of you readers to try out one of these kits. Feel free to leave a reply here if you end up getting one of these kits or have any questions. Ω

Normal Shipping from Japan is Available Again

Some great news for those of us who like to buy products from Japan, like Woody Joe kits and things: This Summer, after nearly a year of Covid lock-down,  Japan Post has begun allowing shipping to the United States again. In celebration, I bought a bunch of stuff from Zootoyz.jp that I don’t really need just yet! After a couple weeks, I received my first package from Japan in about a year.

No, there was no ship modeling stuff here in this order. Well, not exactly anyway. I did get a new Hishika Industries Super Fine Cut Saw to replace the one I’ve worn out. That’s something I do use with ship modeling. The rest is mostly to work on some very small scale (1/150) diorama ideas.

But, you’ll also notice two kits in the photo. These I got mostly to make and share with my 96 year old mother, who is now in a nursing facility. She doesn’t have much room for personal stuff, but she likes to look at these things, particularly if there are people in the model display. And, I’m hoping it jogs her memories a little. She probably doesn’t remember anymore that I’ve visited the Kaminari-mon (the small model) or Matsumoto Castle (the larger model).

So, yes, shipping from Japan is available again, however it is more expensive than it used to be, and it was already pretty pricey. But, in reality, shipping from Japan to the U.S. was still available, even during the lockdown, via a Japanese shipping company called Yamato Transport. In fact, I used the service last year to ship a small model to Japan last year. Shipping to Japan using Yamato is a little bit of work, as you have to find a convenient drop-off location. However, getting stuff from Japan is pretty easy, as their stuff apparently gets passed along to UPS to do the actual delivery.

And, actually, this is how the above items were shipped to me, as it was a little bit cheaper than EMS service via Japan Post, which is how I’d always gotten deliveries in the past. Still pricey, but nice to be able to do business again direct from Japan. Ω

Japanese Diorama Products Now Available from Zootoyz

Just saw that the online Japanese hobby store, Zootoyz.com, has just added Woody Joe diorama products.

[Note: This was announced on Zootoyz’s Facebook page, but there is currently no link on the website itself. Until the site’s navigation is updated, here’s a link to the new products: https://www.japan-wooden-model-kits-zootoyz.shop/contents/en-us/d2045761143_Diorama-products-by-Woody-JOE.html]

This line of products includes sakura, cherry blossom trees, Japanese pines, cypress trees, box trees, cedar trees, generic broadleaf and conifer trees and other vegetation. There are also bags of ground cover for simulating grass, dirt, and gravel.

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Zootoyz: All Wooden Kits, Discounts, and Revamped Website

Zootoyz, which is my go-to online shop for all things Woody Joe, has created a new website dedicated to wooden model construction and is currently featuring special discount pricing in celebration.

If you’ve ever visited them before, you may recall seeing a few lines of plastic kits and some various odds-and-ends kits. While the main Zootoyz online shop still exists, to make it easier for those of us interested specifically in wooden models from Japan, they’ve created this specialized site, which you can find here: https://www.japan-wooden-model-kits-zootoyz.shop/index.html 

But something else to note besides a much more organized site, is that they are listing a couple brand new architectural kits from Woody Joes new line of models featuring places from the famous woodblock prints of Hiroshige’s 53 Station of the Tōkaidō . The new kits were only just announced by Woody Joe and are the famous Nihonbashi bridge and the Arai Sekisho, one of the many stations which regulated travel on the major roads. These are mini-kits that sell for around $40 each, plus shipping.

Note that the trees are included, but the figures and grass are not. This one has nifty little boats and a couple 2-D silhouette figures though.

Note that the trees are included, but the figures shown are not. There are, however, a few 2-D silhouette figures inside the building, checking the records of travelers.

Being small, you might as well buy more than one, as I think the shipping will be the same. Also, if  you’re getting one of the bigger kits, these mini-kits are a nice add-on to your order and they make nice quick diversions. Woody Joe lists them as 8-hour kits. So, they should make nice weekend kits.

Also, if you place an order from the new site, there’s currently an introductory sale going on through June 24th – Just remember Japan is a day ahead of us in the U.S.  So now is a good time to get your new Woody Joe kit! Ω


Building an Old-Style Japanese Roadside Teahouse

Last year around this time, I purchased a few Woody Joe temple and mini architectural kits from none other than Zootoyz, where I buy all my Woody Joe kits.  Incidentally, if you haven’t visited in a while, you should check it out. Morikawa-san revamped the site and it looks really nice. If you buy a kit from him and build it, be sure to send him photos. Also, the folks at Woody Joe would love to see them too.

In any case, in early January, I had a weekend to kill, so I started one of the mini-kits. This one is called Sato no chaya, or Sato’s tea house. It’s a very simple kit that costs around $26 plus shipping. My guess is that the scale is somewhere around 1/50.

Teahouse Mini-Architecture Kit

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Shinmei-zukuri Shrine from Woody Joe

I’ve recently found myself spinning my wheels on the ship modeling front. This happens from time to time with my projects when I get a bit overwhelmed or stuck. My scratch model of a Japanese rice field boat, the Gifu Tabune, was one kind of distraction to work on. That took only a couple days, but there was a lot of thinking that went into that build, since it was from scratch, and I’m still learning a lot about Japanese traditional boats. The ideal would be a simple kit, where I can just build it and not spend a lot of time on it or have to put a lot of brain power into it, as I’m in short supply these days.

As it turns out, I’d purchased a collection of simple Woody Joe kits from Zootoyz. If you follow my blog at all, you’re already aware that I am always recommending purchasing from the online Japanese hobby dealer Zootoyz.com for those looking for, among other things, Woody Joe kits, which are not available directly in the U.S.

Shinmei-zukuri Shrine

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Woody Joe Kits are Back at Zootoyz

Those of you who are interested in kits from the Japanese manufacturer, Woody Joe, will be happy to hear that after more than a year, Zootoyz is now carrying Woody Joe kits once again. I received word from Zootoyz owner Kazunori Morikawa on Sunday. The purchase links for Woody Joe kits on his website, http://zootoyz.jp, are now active again.

Japan's Online Hobby Dealer

He just made the announcement, so it may take a little time to make some corrections to the site, as there are several new Woody Joe kits that aren’t listed yet, like the new Kitamaesen, and the I400 submarine, etc. There are also some old items that may be no longer available that are still listed on the site. Finally, it looks like the exchange rate calculator may need to be updated, as the prices are off slightly.

So, give him a little time to fix things up on the site. But, if you really want to order something, I recommend just sending him an email about it, and he can give you the correct purchase info.

Having Trouble Buying Woody Joe Kits?

UPDATE 11/2/16: This is an update to a post I made back in February. At that time, the Japanese online hobby dealer, Zootoyz.jp,  was having some issues with the store, but it is up and running and all is well. In fact, there have been a lot of updates to the product list (check out Woody Joe’s new I-400 submarine and the revised Kitamaebune kits) and to some of the sites features.

One thing new is a small link you can click, once you get to the product pages, which allows you to “select your currency”, making shopping a bit easier for us international buyers.

Here’s the original post I wrote, but it is now out of date, and the site is happily working fine.

Original Post from 2/21/16

If you’ve been looking for a Woody Joe kit and reading my blogs, you’ve probably been to visit Zootoyz.jp. I’ve been in email contact with the owner, and apparently he is having some issues with the online store.

Japan's Online Hobby Dealer

Online Hobby Dealer

So, if you’re looking for something and it’s coming up as “Out of Stock”, don’t give up. Just send him an email at: contact@zootoyz.jp. Let him know what you’re interested in.

That said, if you need to place a credit card order (he only takes Paypal anyway) or just don’t want to deal with a real person, Amazon.com seller prices appear to be a lot more reasonable now that when I was first getting Woody Joe kits. Just watch for shipping times as not all sellers use expedited shipping the way Zootoyz does.

Ordering Kits and Other Goods from Japan

There are a lot of small products that are made in Japan, particularly for hobbyists, that are hard to find outside that country. Assuming you’ve already check the usual U.S. dealers, the easiest way to find them is to look on Ebay or Amazon. But, if you’re lucky enough to find what you’re looking for, chances are good that the seller has hiked the price up, knowing that you probably don’t know any other way to get it. But, you may have alternatives.

English Language Support

If you’re looking to buy something from Japan and are lucky enough, you may find a dealer that has a website available in English that also ships internationally. One such dealer that I’ve bought from on many occasions is Zootoyz. I can recommend this company wholeheartedly for those looking for Woody Joe kits, Tamiya plastic kits, and the small variety of other things sold on their site. The site isn’t perfect, but the service is excellent. If you have a hard time using the site or finding an item, just use the contact button on their site to ask about it.

You might also find what you’re looking for through Hobbylink Japan. Their website is more sophisticated, but they mostly deal only with plastic kits and accessories. If you’re a wooden ship modeler, what you’ll mostly find there seems to be out-of-stock Woody Joe kits that list as taking 4-6 weeks to ship. Their prices are slightly discounted, but you’ll find that Zootoyz offers slightly discounted prices too. Those discounts don’t show up until you add the item to your cart.

Japanese Only

Beyond these kinds of shops, buying from Japan can be difficult. Many sites are in Japanese only, and searching for a product usually requires you to be able to type in Japanese, or at least to find text that you can cut and then paste into your search window to find what you’re looking for. Bing and Google translators can be very helpful, but they don’t work with secured sites like Amazon Japan. With a little bit of knowledge and familiarity with Amazon.com, you might be able to get by as I have.

Even though you can’t open secure web pages using Bing and Google translators, you can still copy and paste text into them to figure out what the text is that you’re seeing. Using this method, I was able to set up an Amazon-Japan account, enter my payment information and place the order. However, the sellers I purchased from wouldn’t ship internationally.

International Shipping

Many Japanese sellers do not provide international shipping. The easiest way around this is to know someone in Japan that would be willing to do you a favor. If so, you might be able to impose on them to forward the shipment to you. If you deal with an online seller that does ship internationally and you are a good enough customer, they might be willing to forward something for you. But, if you’re not in a position to ask anyone to help you out, there are still alternatives.

Shipping Agents

I recently signed up with a company called Tenso.com. This is one of many shipping agents that provide you with a Japanese address that you can have your orders shipped to. There is no cost to join, and they will ship anywhere in the world for a small processing fee that depends on the weight of the shipment. For a 1kg package (2.2lbs), that’s 600¥ or about $5.

If you want to save a little money, they will also hold your shipment for up to 30 days and combine your items into a single package for you. This way, those who have a hankering for Japanese products and don’t want to pay the premium often charged by importers or Ebay and Amazon sellers can order easily.

I haven’t tried out the service yet, but I have signed up and expect I will try it soon. Ω