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 and move and then another and another like a kind of chain reaction. When the right combination of movements is achieved the box will open.
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 it’s 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.
Pattern name for the design on this puzzle box is: Kikkou The wood used is Cornus controversa (white) Almaciga (light brown) and Cercidiphyllum japonicum (brown). It’s quite an optical illusion and the more you look at it the more you see.
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.
Actual Size outside: 150mm X 107mm X 68mm Size inside: 102mm x 74mm x 40mm
Packaged in a bright orange pressboard gift box. It has information about Hakone and puzzle box history with a solution inside.
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.