Known as Himitsu-Bako this is a traditional Japanese Secret Box, or what we now call Puzzle Box.
To open this Japanese Puzzle Box, you need to find the first panel that you can move, usually by sliding it side to side or up and down. That will then allow the next panel to unlock, then another, and another. 12 moves in total. With the right combination, you can open the box. But even then this box has another secret it doesn’t give up easily. There’s another small hidden compartment under the lid that can be opened with another move. Can you find where it is?
This box design is called Akafuji. It has the classic Mt Fuji design in wooden marquetry on the top of the box. A beautiful crane on the bottom of the box. And the sides of the box showcase the gorgeous natural wood colours used in layered lines around the box.
Similar boxes were being made as early at 1830 and known as Hakone Hotsprings Souvenirs. They were commonly used for carrying sewing kits, even work tools because others could not steal the contents because of the trick opening. They eventually evolved into what we commonly know today as a Japanese Puzzle Box around 1870 when Mr Ohkawn developed a more complex mechanism to open combined with the amazing Yosegi-Zaiku inlaid mosaic woodwork unique to the Hakone area.
The Hakone Mountains of Japan has always been a popular tourist destination even back then. The region is noted for its great variety of trees. Hakone-Yosegi-Zaiku is inlaid mosaic woodwork unique to this area and takes advantage of this wide variety of natural wood colours and textures to produce their elaborate geometric patterns.
This is a 5 Sun box. Sun is the traditional unit of measure to denote length – 3.03cm to be exact – of these secret opening puzzle boxes.
Size: 5 Sun Size outside: 150mm X 95mm X 65mm Size inside: 108mm x 78mm x 50mm With a small extra hidden drawer that can fit a card or money inside the lid.
Packaged in a paper covered craft board lidded box as is traditional for many Japanese puzzles boxes. The puzzle box comes with a printed solution and a small brochure about the tradition of secret boxes in Japan.
We found this YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljh4oBJD0QI%20 of a Japanese craftsman making the Yosegi in the traditional way. We don’t know who this actual craftsman is but this is a good example of the way these puzzle boxes are made to this day. Just amazing to watch.