Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Japanese Puzzle Boxes
The first Japanese Secret Puzzle Boxes were designed over 100 years ago in the late Edo period by Jinbei Ishikawa (1790-1850). The puzzle box (also called a secret, or trick box) is a box that can only be opened through some obscure or complicated series of manipulations.
Some puzzle boxes may require only a simple squeeze in the correct area, whereas others may require the subtle movement of several small parts, to open the box. If opened, a puzzle box can contain a good luck charm. These boxes can be very complex. They may consist of moves with a variety of twists to trick the person trying to open the box, but the trick is finding the correct series of movements that can range from two to over 1500 moves.
In Japan they are known as “Himitsu-Bako." The Himitsu-Bako is an enclosed box, seemingly with no opening, and you cannot even tell which side is the top or bottom. Its mechanism is quite tricky and it impossible to open it unless you follow the exact step-by-step procedure, such as pushing or pulling a certain side at a time, designed specially for it. To be opened, each box must be rotated, turned and moved in a specific way. The size of a Japanese puzzle box is measured with a traditional Japanese length measuring system called “SUN”. 1 sun = 1.22 inches = 3.09 centimetres = 30.9 millimeters
These boxes first appeared 100 years ago when the principle of trick-mechanism was first developed and continuous improvements have been made to complete the Himitsu-Bako to perfection as they are found today. The Himitsu-Bako craftsmen produce their secret puzzle box virtually alone from start to finish. They pick the wood they will use and then allow it to dry for a period of time. Next, they cut and assemble wood pieces to form the puzzle box. Most of Japanese puzzle boxes are covered with Yosegi Zaiku marquetry. Yosegi-Zaiku is a mosaic style, where a skilled craftsman cuts different coloured woods in to various shapes, then glues them together to form geometrically patterned woodblocks.
For more information visit the following sites: Puzzle Box World, Amazon, Cleverwood, and Serious Puzzles.