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Puzzle Boxes - Japanese

Some of the finest crafted puzzle boxes in the world are made in Japan. Puzzle boxes of the highest quality.  Traditional Japanese puzzle boxes from Hakone. Himitsu-Bako means Secret Box in Japanese and over time these boxes became commonly known as a "Personal Secret Box".  Small Karakuri boxes also from Japan. Their ingenious mechanisms and baffling solutions never cease to amaze us! Our stock is changing all the time so keep an eye on this page.  Many of these items are only available in very small quantities.

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  1. Karakuri small cube puzzle box #6

    Karakuri small cube puzzle box #6

    The top of the box is obviously separate from the bottom, it can move in and out slightly, and when you shake the puzzle it rattles. Can you open it? Learn More
  2. Karakuri small puzzle box #3

    Karakuri small puzzle box #3

    Karakuri Creation Group say this is one of the least difficult boxes in the series but warn "But still, people who know the secret boxes tend to lose the way to open." So be careful not to underestimate this one. They are well known for their amazing woodwork and it is almost impossible to see the joins where one panel meets another on this box making the puzzle even harder to do.

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  3. Karakuri small puzzle box #7

    Karakuri small puzzle box #7

    Maybe not the hardest puzzle box in this series of Karakuri small puzzle boxes but its a very interesting play on the idea of a traditional Japanese puzzle box with a very elegant solution with a good Ah Ha! Feeling.

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  4. Japanese New Secret Opening Box III 18 step

    Japanese New Secret Opening Box III 18 step

    This is a new type Secret Opening Japanese Puzzle Box where all 6 surfaces of this box must slide in a set combination to allow this box to be opened.

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  5. Japanese puzzle box 2 sun 7 step with box

    Genuine Japanese crafted secret Koyosegi box 2 sun 7 step

    The puzzle is to open the small 2 sun puzzle box; maybe you'll find a gift inside? Genuine Japanese made puzzle box.

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  6. Karakuri small puzzle box #8

    Karakuri small puzzle box #8

    This small puzzle box is based on an original design called "3D Box (K-20)" by Akio Kamei created for for the IPP16 Puzzle Exchange event held in Luxembourg in 1996. It was redesigned in 2006 at the Karakuri Creation Group. This puzzle box is quite different looking to others in the set; and although its not the most difficult its mechanism is quite different too and so a must for any collector of Kamei designs.

    Size outside: 58mm x 58mm x 58mm

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  7. 5 Sun 21 Step Akaasa design Japanese puzzle box

    5 Sun 21 Step Akaasa design Japanese puzzle box

    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.

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  8. 54 Step Japanese puzzle box Shirosaya

    6 sun 54 + 1 Step Japanese puzzle box

    Different designs available in the large and complex 54 step + 1 6 Sun Japanese puzzle boxes. **Currently only 1 design left. Kikkou. All other designs sold out and not available again before Christmas.** Learn More
  9. Karakuri Checkered Cube Puzzle Box

    Karakuri Checkered Cube Puzzle Box

    Each of the four puzzle boxes in this series has different mechanisms and can be distinguished by different checkered patterns.

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  10. Japanese secret opening puzzle box 4 Sun 10 Step

    Japanese secret opening puzzle box 4 Sun 10 Step

    A traditional Japanese puzzle box made in the Hakone region of Japan by Himitsu-Bako Master craftsman.  Size: 4 Sun  Moves: 10 Step Learn More

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This history of the himitsu-bako, or puzzle box, starts more than 200 years ago in Hakone, Japan. 

At first they were just small trinket boxes used for holding various small items like needle and thread (their difficulty to open kept these things safe from young children) or jewellery. But soon workers began making larger boxes to keep their tools safe. They could be used by samurai or warlords to send secret messages or for travellers to protect their belongings during journeys.

As they grew larger and more elaborate, they came to be known by other names too; sikake-bako or tei-bako literally meaning trick box or clever box.

But it wasn't until the Meiji Period in the late 1800 that local artisans in Hakone took the plain puzzle box and applied the yosegi-zaiku, a mosaic-style type of wood artistry or handicraft that had been made in Hakone for more than 1000 years, in the Heian period. Yosegi-Zaiku is made from the great variety of trees in the Hakone region and is a type of inlaid mosaic woodwork unique to this area.  It is made by gluing a series of intricate geometric shaped woods together and then slicing them into a veneer to make the design.

Takajiro Ohkawa, Tatsunosuke Okiyama and Mr. Kikukawa are credited with the creation of what we now know as the modern Japanese puzzle box.

While Hakone was always a tourist destination in is own right, with it's famed hot springs, on the shores of Lake Ashi, almost at the foot of Mt Fuji, and surrounded by amazing forests, it was also a well-travelled route connecting Osaka and Tokyo, so the region definitely saw many tourists even as early as the nineteenth century. The himitsu-bako are intriguing and very decorative so they quickly became popular souvenirs for the tourists visiting Hakone.

Japanese puzzle boxes can only be opened if you know the correct sequence to unlock the compartment. Japanese puzzle boxes can only be opened if you know the correct sequence to unlock the compartment. Some of the easier trick boxes can have as few as four moves but we've had puzzles in stock with as many as 54 moves. The puzzler slides the sides of the box back and forth similar to a sliding block puzzle, but instead of rearranging tiles to make a picture, the correct sequence of moves will open the box. The Japanese Puzzle box will never open unless you follow the correct sequence of moves exactly.

And there's even an example of a Japanese Puzzle Box in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory.

It was discovered by a civilian boilermaker, Robert Judge in one of the Japanese midget submarines which was recovered from Sydney Harbour after the attack of the night of 30-31 May 1942. Judge was specifically employed at Garden Island, Sydney to cut open the submarines with an oxy-acetylene torch. He noticed this box as he entered the interior of the submarine, secretly removed it, and retained it as a keepsake.

Japanese inlaid rectangular wooden puzzle or secret box, featuring an interwoven geometric Yosegi pattern on all four sides and on the face of the hidden drawer; a traditional coloured inlaid scene of Mount Fuji with boat and house on the sliding cover; and a pink rose and bird design on the base and on the sliding lid of the hidden drawer, all using veneer wood. The lid is removed by sliding the top half of the proper right side panel, which releases it. This reveals a box, half the depth of the whole. Pulling up the proper left side panel reveals a sliding drawer fitted with sliding lid nestled in the lower half of the box. The drawer face is equipped with a small round orange handle, probably made from celluloid.

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