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Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Our puzzle boxes are each individually handcrafted in the city of Hakone, Japan and imported by us directly from the artists offering the best quality and pricing available. The skills have been passed down through the generations since the Edo Period. Each box comes with instructions on how to open the box, but give it a try first. Below are links to our Puzzle Box reference articles.

About Our Japanese Puzzle Boxes

As with any items made from wood they will swell when exposed to high temperatures, liquids, or humidity. Japanese puzzle boxes should be protected from extremes in temperature and humidity. The inside of your home or office is fine, just keep them away from direct sunlight. 

About Our Puzzle Boxes

Japanese Puzzle Box Glossary

Any time an art form is brought from its native country, along with it comes many terms that need translation to understand. These terms are also incorporated in the names of the articles themselves and the designs and patterns. Below is a list of terms relative to Japanese Puzzle Boxes.

Puzzle Box Glossary

A Closer Look at Yosegi

Yosegi Zaiku, is an intricate mosaic marquetry process that is made into a beautiful veneer. This veneer is used to decorate everything from chopsticks and serving trays to the amazing Himitsu Bako (Japanese Puzzle Boxes). Various woods of different colors are harvested, dried, and shaved or cut into different shapes that are then combined to make the basic patterns. These patterns are then arranged to make sheets that are shaved into the veneer.

Yosegi Sample Pictures

Himitsu Bako

Himitsu bako is a name given to small boxes made by combining unique puzzle mechanism with Yosegi-Zaiku and/or Moku-Zougan  inlay work. The merging of two arts, native to a single small town along the banks of Ashino-Ko Lake. Welcome to Hakone, Japan and the art of the Japanese Secret Box, also known in the west as a Japanese Puzzle Box.  

Himitsu Bako

Challenge your Mind with Himitsu Baku

The Himitsu Baku is a Japanese wooden puzzle box, handcrafted from wood by one of many master craftsmen. The men who create these boxes in Japan are renowned for their craftsmanship, because these are simply no ordinary boxes. The Himitsu Baku Japanese puzzle box is said to have been first developed in or around 1893, which was the tail end of the Edo period in Japan. 

The purpose of the Himitsu Baku Japanese puzzle box is to challenge those who wish to open it. The Himitsu Baku box consists of a number of small panels, decorated in intricate Japanese patterns that make it a perfect mantle piece decoration. These panels need to be moved slightly in different steps, and each of the steps loosens devices within the box that will allow it to be opened after a certain sequence has been completed. The most popular and more easily found Himitsu Baku Japanese puzzle boxes are found in four-step, seven-step, ten-step and twelve-step variations, though there are a number of other variations as well. There have been Japanese puzzle boxes created by master craftsmen that require as many as 125 or 150 'moves' to open them, but these boxes are extremely difficult to find, and many of the craftsmen responsible for their creation have passed on.   


Collectible Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Himitsu Baku Japanese Puzzle Boxes are unique and fun to collect wooden box puzzles that have become a true passion for people who enjoy stimulating their minds in unique and innovative ways. These Himitsu Baku Japanese puzzle boxes are all functional, intriguing and truly beautiful. They are filled with secrets because they require between seven and one-hundred fifty special moves before they can be opened correctly. They can be found all over the world, but all authentic Himitsu Baku Japanese puzzle boxes are from Japan, which is where they are hand carved and crafted by some of the most innovative master artisans in the entire world.   


Himitsu Baku 101

Himitsu-Bako is the formal name of the artistry referred to as the Japanese Puzzle Box, or 'personal secret box'. Over a century ago, talented artisans began using various woods of the Hakone-Odawara area in Japan to handcraft intricately designed storage boxes. Months could pass between not only choosing a variety of woods and letting them dry but carving them and piecing them together. Taking the assorted flat pieces in an array of different colors, artisans worked masterfully complex designs. The result was a sleekly designed piece of art that was anywhere from one inch to one foot in length. Each box is a work unto itself with no one box an exact copy of another.   


Himitsu Baku Masters

The skill that goes into making a Japanese Puzzle Box is, at its core, a fusion of age old art and science. Also referred to as Himitsu Bako, the mechanics of a Japanese Puzzle Box requires flush parts that can move together in fluid and flowing motions. This is no small task. As many an apprentice has come to find, being off by even the smallest measurement will either make the box too tight and difficult to open or entirely too slack. Learning this ancient and respectable art takes many years and there are a few who have made a name for themselves doing just so. Their skill and contribution in this ancient art is the very embodiment of today's modern Japanese Puzzle Box.   


Japanese Puzzle Box Marquetry

Along with the intriguing sliding parts of a Japanese Puzzle Box, the beautiful designs covering the outside can be just as captivating. These designs can consist of mountain and lake scenes or geometric patterns. This enchanting artistry is referred to as marquetry and requires as much craftsmanship and skill as the box making itself. Marquetry artisans use woods with no artificial tints or dyes to create vibrant multicolored designs. Himitsu Bako craftsmen typically create the design of their boxes and have the outside design applied at a later date. Yosegi-zaiku and Zougan are the two chief styles of marquetry found on the Japanese Puzzle Box. 

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The Value of Japanese Puzzle Boxes as a Collectible

In the world of antiques and collectibles, the Japanese Puzzle Box is an item that instantly catches attention. Their staggering price tags are a testament to the fact that compared to many other historical cultural items from around the world; the Japanese Puzzle Box has steadily maintained its allure for well over a century. Many wonder how it is an item could possible warrant such pointed interest. In truth, anything that stands the test of time usually consists of not only good, solid construction but precise, one of a kind craftsmanship and artistry. These two main ingredients make up the Japanese Puzzle Box. 


Making your Puzzle Box Last with Proper Care

Puzzle Boxes Designs

What are Puzzle Boxes ?

Puzzle Box Master Craftsmen

Yoshio Okiyama - Master

Yoshio Okiyama Gallery

Patterns in Our Japanese Puzzle Boxes

The Japanese Puzzle box is a merging of two Art-Forms. The art of creating a box with sliding panels that can only be opened if you know the exact sequence of moves. (or follow the directions we provide with each box) The second art is that of wood marquetry or Zaiku where different woods in their natural color are carefully cut and glued together making beautiful patterns. Below are several samples of these patterns and the woods used to make them.

Puzzle Box Patterns

Exotic Wood used in Japanese Zougan Marquetry

The mountains surrounding the town of Hakone in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan hold an amazing collection of exotic trees, many of which have been used in the art of Zougan. (wood marquetry and inlay)  Below are samples of some of the wood from those trees. As you can see, there is no need for dyes or stains to make the beautiful colors and patterns in our Japanese Puzzle Boxes. A Yosegi patterned box could use over a dozen different species of wood.

Exotic Wood Samples

Yosegi Zaiku and Zougan Zaiku

Yosegi Zaiku and Zougan Zaiku are traditional Japanese works of art with a history dating back 1,000 years. It was first created in the town of Hakone, an important stop on the road from Kyoto (the old Capital) to Edo (the new Capital, now known as Tokyo). This road was made famous by Hiroshige in his woodblock print set “The 53 Stations of Tokaido”  


Himitsu Bako - The Japanese Puzzle Box

Himitsu bako is a name given to small boxes made by combining unique puzzle mechanism with Yosegi-Zaiku and/or Moku-Zougan  inlay work. The merging of two arts, native to a single small town along the banks of Ashino-Ko Lake. Welcome to Hakone, Japan and the art of the Japanese Secret Box, also known in the west as a Japanese Puzzle Box. 


Himitsu Bako - A Brief History

The island of Japan was a closed society for many centuries and, despite only knowing of its existence in the last one hundred years, it is suspected that the art of Himitsu-Bako is much, much older. Nonetheless, it was not until the mid 1980's that Japan's Industry Minister declared the art form a National Traditional Handicraft. To be designated as such, a craft must be manufactured by hand by traditional artisans using traditional techniques and materials. The item created must have a place for practical use in every day life and production must be contained to a specific area or region. 


Try the challenge of Himitsu Baku

In today's society, everybody likes a challenge. SuDoku, Kakuro, crosswords, word searches, and a variety of other popular puzzles are gaining increasing popularity as people look for new and innovative ways to challenge themselves. Although paper and pen puzzles are trendy right now, there are a lot of people who still prefer the original puzzle, hand puzzles that have given way to the invention of a number of innovative and creative puzzle ideas through the years. Still, there are a number of puzzles that have been around for so long, that while difficult to find, they are well worth considering.   


Himitsu Baku Puzzle Boxes

The Himitsu Baku is a Japanese puzzle box that is currently produced by only nine traditional craftsmen. These artisans are not responsible for creating the Yosegi-Zaiku patterns that adorn their secret boxes, but they are responsible for producing their secret box puzzles virtually alone from beginning to end. Each artisan is responsible for choosing their own wood, then allowing it to dry and curing it. Next, they are responsible for cutting all of the wood pieces and assembling them to create the challenging puzzle box. Finally, they purchase the Yosegi-Zaiku patterns in sheets, and attach them to each face on the box using the right finishing techniques. The youngest of all Himitsu Baku master craftsmen today is around sixty years old, though there are a number of apprentices who are working to learn this unique art so that the tradition can be continued even when the original craftsmen have passed on. 


A Japanese Puzzle Box Makes a Unique Gift

Many people are tired of giving the same old gifts like gift cards for special occasions and are looking for a unique gift. One gift you may want to consider is a Japanese puzzle box. These boxes are beautiful wood boxes that have a secret.

What is a Japanese Puzzle Box?

These boxes are also referred to as a himitsu-bako which literally translates to Personal Secret Box. They have been in existence for over 100 years and have been traced back to a region in Japan called Hakone. They are wood boxes that at first glance look like a box that is just beautifully decorated. However upon further examination of the box the recipient will soon learn that the box holds a secret. 


Himitsu Baku of Hakone

The Himitsu Baku means "Personal Secret Box", and is a traditional Japanese puzzle box that was originally designed more than 100 years ago, in 1893 in the Hakone region in Japan. The Hakone Mountains have been renowned for the great number of different trees that exist there, and the Himitsu Baku Personal Secret Box takes advantages of all of the different colors and textures of wood that can be found in the Hakome Mountains in order to create elaborate boxes with beautiful hand-carved geometric patterns on each face of the box. Not only is the Himitsu Baku puzzle box concept popular for the puzzling entertainment that it offers, but it is also valued as a Yosegi-Zaiku, which is a mosaic woodwork that is usually applied to chests, boxes, trays and other small handicrafts.   


Choosing the Best Style of Japanese Puzzle Box

The Evolution of the Japanese Puzzle Box

Determining the Complexity of a Japanese Puzzle Box

Tips on Choosing the Perfect Japanese Puzzle Box

Characteristics of the Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Modern Day Puzzle Box Masters

Puzzle Boxes Standards

Puzzle Boxes and Their History

Woods Used for Making Puzzle Boxes


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