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Pandora's Puzzle Boxes

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Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Himitsu-Bako (Personal Secret Box)

The Himitsu-Bako is a traditional Japanese puzzle box, which was developed over 100 years ago in the Hakone region of Japan. Hakone was a relay station on the main road to Edo (present-day Tokyo), and the puzzle boxes were popular souvenirs for travelers. Today there are only 9 National Master Craftsmen producing Himitsu-Bako in the Hakone region. The youngest is over 60 years old. It is impossible to say whether this magnificent artwork will survive to another generation.

Yosegi-Zaiku Woodwork

Yosegi-Zaiku marquetry is a form of inlaid and mosaic woodwork unique to the Hakone region of Japan. The Hakone Mountains are famous for their great variety of trees. The Yosegi-Zaiku geometric pattern is formed by binding together different colors of wood. Shaved off with a special plane, very thin sheets of wood are then used as an outside finish for various handicrafts - like the Japanese puzzle boxes known as Himitsu-Bako.

Zougan Woodwork

Zougan means "marquetry." This art form originated about 3000 years ago in Egypt. It then traveled through Persia, India, China, and Japan, where the technique has been handed down by generations of Master Craftsmen. In the Hakone region of Japan, the Zougan technique takes advantage of the wide variety of trees and the natural colors of their wood. Different woods are inlaid to form a picture block, which is then planed into thin sheets and applied to the outside of various handicrafts, including secret boxes.

Trees of Hakone

Different trees produce the different colored woods used in Yosegi-Zaiku and Zougan woodwork. White - Dogwood, spindle tree Yellow - Japanese lacquer tree, wax tree, sumac Light Brown - Japanese pagoda tree, walnut tree, camphor tree Dark Brown - Persimmon Reddish Brown - Cherry tree, jindai of zelkova tree Gray - Japanese white bark magnolia Black - Black persimmon tree, jindai of Japanese Judas tree Jindai refers to a tree which has been buried by landslide or volcanic activity for a long period of time. When dug up and exposed to air, the wood color turns very dark, but retains the original wood grain.

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