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Who said puzzles can't be exquisite works of art? To prove they can, nothing better than a majestic Japanese Puzzle Box, made by extremely talented craftsmen. Known as Himitsu-Bako in their homeland, these puzzle boxes originated in the Hakone mountains in Japan, and have been around for more than a century now. The skills to make them have been passed from generation to generation, always in pursuit of perfecting this ancient art.
The latest addition to my Japanese Puzzle Box collection - 5 Sun 21 Steps Hinode-Fuji - looks more like a painting than a puzzle. It may be hard to believe, but no type of paint was used to create this magnificent picture, showing Mount Fuji. Instead, several different natural wood tones were used to produce this picturesque landscape. The marquetry technique used is called Zougan, which is done by inlaying different types woods to create a pattern, and then by shaving it in thin sheets. The resulting pattern, also used in various handicrafts other than puzzle boxes is called Yosegi-Zaiku. This specific puzzle box is made by the craftstudio IZUMIYA, based right in the Hakone region, Kanagawa prefecture. You can see the studio's stamp inside each box, which proves you have an original Himitsu-Bako. The box also comes in a beautiful gift-box.
(Click to Enlarge) - Left: Craftstudio's Stamp; Right: Included Gift-Box
Besides the top picture, you can also appreciate at the bottom of the box another beautiful image of the Japanese crane, also called the red-crowned crane. This image too is made using the same Zougan technique. Also, intricate yosegi patterns decorate the sides of the box, made with strips of natural wood in various colors - Everything about this box screams perfection.
(Click to Enlarge) - Bottom Image and Side of the Box
Another great feature of this Hinode-Fuji box is its size, the biggest in my collection so far. It's a 5 Sun box, which equals to 15cm in length (5.9"). The other measurements are 9.8cm in width (3.9") and 6.5cm in height (2.6"). The secret compartment on this box is much larger than the more common 2 and 3 Sun boxes, therefore accommodating more interesting gifts you can leave inside for a loved one.
To open the box you need a total of 21 steps. The sequence for these 21 steps is much harder to find than my Mame box, which had a very predictable sequence. This time, the sequence involves move sliding panels and needs a bit more cunning to discover the correct pattern of movements. It's not overly difficult, but definitely more challenging than what I was used to. Once opened, you can slide the top lid completely off. The bottom panel doesn't come off, even though you're able to slide it outwards a little.
Note: All Japanese Puzzle Boxes require the utmost care in order to retain their high quality. You need to be careful with changes in humidity and heat, as the wood may contract or expand, permanently damaging the sensitive sliding mechanism.
(Click to Enlarge) - Half-Open and Completely Open
A Japanese Puzzle Box like this demands to be seen, to be displayed as a central piece on a shelf or a coffee table. To keep it inside a cupboard or a storage box would be a crime. This beautiful puzzle is now one of my favorites in my collection and has certainly enrich it a little bit more...actually, a lot more...
Availability: The Hinode-Fuji box is a one of a kind design among Japanese Puzzle Boxes. Be quick and grab one before they go out for good at Brilliant Puzzles.
To know more about Japanese Puzzle Boxes, and their many features, check out my latest article as a guest writer for the Brilliant Puzzles' blog.