It had been a long time since Eric first contacted me by email. In 2005, Eric was very early in his puzzle making business and he wanted to know if my puzzle designs could be used in his business. I never heard his name until then but anyways, I replied OK to him because there was no reason to deny his offer, and I thought that he was gentle and polite.
One day, I received a parcel from Eric containing Two by Three puzzles. To be honest, I thought his work was not that much better than similar burr puzzles made by Japanese craftsmen. The puzzles that Eric made were not coated and the tolerances were a bit too loose, and I thought to myself, if business can be done with such things, the US must be easy. In hindsight, he may not have owned the superior machines and tools that he does today.
Each time he sent me a designer's copy of a puzzle he made, the quality improved. He always cared about the puzzle designers and was willing to pay royalties.
My first face to face encounter with Eric was at an IPP (International Puzzle Party). He found me and started telling me that he would like to produce more of my designed puzzles using exotic timber. He looked very shy and humble, perhaps because he didn't have a Mohican hairstyle back then. My wife and I often call mischievous cockatoos that come to our backyard Eric, by the way.
I left Japan with my wife in 2011 and moved to Australia, and when I applied for a work visa in 2013, I asked Eric if he could write a reference letter for me. Eric immediately responded to my request, knowing that my business sponsor (Mr Puzzle) and I would be a potential competitor for his business. I thanked him and told him I should buy him a glass of beer in the future. Additionally, when my wife and I started our puzzle business, Eric was kind enough to give us information on what kind of circular saw blades, dado blades, and coatings he used. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to meet him at the IPP in Paris in 2017 and had the chance to return the favor.
I continued to collaborate with Eric and he has proven that we can share this puzzle world. He promised to show me his workshop if I had the opportunity to visit the US. The last time I received an email from Eric was only a month ago. He was discussing about his future project involving a puzzle I had recently designed.
He was too young. It was a great loss to his family, friends and the puzzle world. Rest in peace my friend.