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Modern Puzzle Box #Japantastic

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Published on Dec 14, 2011

The himitsu-bako [secret box] is a traditional craft product from the Hakone area -- or to be precise, it was perfected as a gift item in the middle of the Meiji period and has been made there ever since. It's box that you open by sliding aside a number of its sides, typically four out of six sides. But sliding the sides to open the box is all there is to it, so when we were creating the puzzle, we wanted to give it something extra, incorporate a new action, and to give it a modern-looking design or put some kind of modern joke, some kind of modern wit or humor into the way it was opened.

You begin by cutting out the materials from which the box will be made. You cut up the dried material very small, then you make the components and assemble the box. When you are assembling the box, you use an adhesive bond or glue — as a rule you don't use nails or screws. So you stick the pieces together using adhesive bond.

The surface of the himitsu-bako is traditionally covered in sheets of yosegi [parquetry], and it appears some customers are a little confused. They say, "Yes, I know about himitsu-bako: they are those pretty boxes, aren't they? With a puzzle built into them. The pretty boxes are called yosegi-zaiku [parquetry work], aren't they?" In fact, himitsu-bako is the name given to boxes that have a mechanism, or a puzzle built into them. So, we have set the yosegi parquetry aside and are making boxes with a focus on the puzzle element.

In fact, more than ten years ago, a group known as Karakuri Creation Group was established. It was formed by local craftspeople making himitsu-bako and people from all over Japan who want to learn the craft, who have come together to create new items. And they sell the items they create, through our company, all over the world.

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