About Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Handicraft Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Yosegi”, a sort of elaborate wood mosaic work treasured in Japan since old days, has been increasingly well reputed in foreign countries.

The mosaic work is made by making best use of natural fine grains and texture of wood. Timbers of different colors are cut into oblong for white, of desired sections (Spindle tree and Ilex Macropoda are used for white, aged Katsura - tree for black, Picrasma Quassioides, Mulberry and Sumac for yellow, Camphor tree and Maackia for brown, American Walnut tree for purple, Japanese Cucumber tree for blue, and Chinese Cedar for red, etc’).

The rods are than glued together to form the section of geometrical pattern designed. The sectional surface is sliced into thin plates of wood, which are glued onto boxes and other handicraft works. To add to glaze and sturdiness of the surface, finish coatings are applied.

As the surface is finished in Lacquer coating, it is rather free from stain. Just hand polish with soft and dry cloth. Please be careful not to expose it to excessive sunshine, moisture and heat.

Opening a Japanese Puzzle Box

In order to open a puzzle box, you need to move / slide one part (or more) in one side of the box. This action will allow other parts in other sides of the box to be moved too, which will allow other parts to be moved… until the right combinations in reached and the box is opened. Each part that is being moved partially unlocks other part in other side of the box which allows them to move. Solving the Japanese Puzzle Box means to slide the top panel and opening the box.

Remember – don’t use force. The parts will move easy and smoothly if you do it the right way…

Obviously, as more steps the box has, as more craftsman work was invested in it, hence it is more challenging to open it.

Making Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Step 1: Each of different-colored wood pieces are planed to the proper thickness to make Yosegi pattern and fastened with glue in order of the pattern. 
The layered wood are sawn to fit a Yosegi-specific mold into a piece.
Step 2: The cut pieces are planned accurately. The glue is spread out on each completed piece to make a unit pattern.
Step 3: The pieces are tied together and glued. Then this block of a unit pattern is sawn into several slices to form a larger pattern.
Step 4: The cut slices are glued together again. This repeated process of cutting and gluing makes a larger pattern. 
The resultant plate is called Tanegi.
Step 5: The plate is shaved carefully into thin sheets with a special big plane. This shaved sheet is called Duku
Step 6: As the shaved sheets are shrunken, they are ironed and stuck on the products.

Making Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Size of Japanese Puzzle Boxes

The Hakone, Japan Puzzle Box Creators use the ‘sun’ system to describe the size of a traditional puzzle box. "Sun" is a traditional Japanese unit of measure to denote length. The translation of Sun to a length that we can relate is that 1 Sun is about 30.3 mm or about 1.22 inches. This system is used to describe the approximate size of Hakone, Japan Puzzle Boxes. Note that the sun system does not describe the width or height, or the size of the inside compartment.

We consider Mini Trick Boxes, 1 & 1.5 sun boxes to be miniature (mame). 2, 2.5, and 3 sun boxes are small boxes. 4 sun boxes are medium size. 5 sun is the standard size. 6 sun is large. And 7 sun is very large.

Measurements and "Sun" Sizes in Inches

Small Boxes

1 sun = 1.22

1.5 sun = 1.83

2 sun = 2.44

2.5 sun = 3.05

3 sun = 3.66


Medium Boxes

4 sun = 4.88

5 sun = 6.10




Large Boxes

6 sun = 7.32

7 sun = 8.54



These boxes are an amazing handicraft items made by Japanese artists – each one of the boxes is very unique, special, Masterpiece! Work-of-Art!

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Japanese Puzzle Box With 5 Steps

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