Don’t be fooled by the Mame’s size; it’s a real working puzzle box with 4 panels that move and it takes 18 moves to remove the lid. The space inside is not very big but you could fold a $20 note up very small. And a nice size diamond would fit:)
Mame means “Beans” in Japanese, so the meaning is this puzzle box is small like a bean.
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.
The puzzle box is made from wood by Hiroyuki Oki in his own workshop in Hakone where he’s been making puzzle boxes since 2003. Before that, he had 10 years of apprenticeship training at the famous Hakone Yosegi factory to make the Yosegi-zaiku wood marquetry pattern on the outside. A master craftsman.
Similar boxes were being made as early as 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 very TINY puzzle box. This is a 1 Sun box. Sun is the traditional unit of measure to denote length – 1.22 inches to be exact – of these secret opening puzzle boxes.
Actual Size outside: 43mm X 30.3mm X 27mm Size inside is very very small: 22mm X 16mm X 11mm
Packaged in a white pressboard gift box with a distinctive mauve sayagata patterned lid with some small gold and silver leaf flecks. It has a printed solution inside.
Mame is the smallest but we also have other puzzle boxes from Oka-Craft including the unique square and hexagonal boxes. Photo below with comparative size.