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Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Updated on January 9, 2011

All about the Secret Boxes

Puzzle Boxes are a great way to keep hidden items private. Forget keys, passcodes, locks, voice recognition. From now on, the premise is simple: only those who have the wits and perseverance to go through an enduring task shall be able to see what you've hidden away. Puzzle boxes force users to do a mechanical puzzle before the box can be opened. Kind of like a mini-rubik's cube. Originally from Japan, Japanese Puzzle Boxes are also known as Himitsu-Bako "Secret Box"

Image By Rama. Wikimedia Commons

Opened Japanese Puzzle Box
Opened Japanese Puzzle Box

Size and Difficulty of Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Japaneses puzzle boxes have two characteristics: Sun and Steps.

The Sun (pronounced Soon) is really just the size of the box, so a bigger sun can hold a bigger item.

Then there are steps.

Essentially that's how much activity is required to reveal your secrets away. A 4-step himitsu bako means there are 4 specific moves a person must do in order to open the box. Out of hundreds of possible combinations, finding just the right 4-step process can be difficult. The more steps, the harder it is for the person to guess.

4 Sun 14 Steps Japanese Puzzle Box

What to do with a Japanese Secret Box?

Important People

You don't have to use the secret box to hide belongings you don't wish others to see. Beautiful as they are, they make delightful decorations. Imagine your guests coming by for dinner and seeing this box. You explain it to them and of course they cannot resist trying to open it. Even if there's nothing inside, or maybe just some candy as a prize, it is extra enjoyment and a lasting impression they'll have of both your wits and your worldly curiosities.

Birthday Parties

Make a present more memorable by storing it inside a himitsu bako instead of wrapping it. Nobody said presents had to be easy to get, why not provide some puzzle-y challenge, especially if you know the person likes puzzles or at least enjoys a good laugh. (You can open it later if they fail of course. No need to torture anyone)

Hide Keys

If you have a forgetful person in the house who tends to lose their keys, you know how horrifying it can be to consider hiding your keys outside. Will it be under the Welcome mat? Inside the plant? Under the umbrella holder? Well now you can put this secret box inside the shed (for those of you whose sheds don't lock) or hidden by the garbage. If someone does stumble upon it, they probably won't be able to figure out how to open it. However, once you've instructed your forgetful knucklehead on how to open it, at least he or she'll be able to get inside the house.

Yosegi IMG 6573
Yosegi IMG 6573

What's "Yosegi"?

You might have noticed the word "Yosegi" come up a lot and wondered what it could be. It's actually a style of veneering used to beautify various wooden items, like the Himitsu Bako. Yosegi are mosaic lapels made from wood, metal, or plastic. Wood is cut over and over in order to give it that Japanese aesthetic mosaic look.

Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr [CC-BY-SA-2.0-fr (], via Wikimedia Commons

Learn More About Yosegi and Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Yosegi Puzzle Box .com

Yosegi Art and Making Yosegi Step by Step

Solving a Yosegi Puzzle Box

Making Yosegi

Have you ever had a secret box?

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    • profile image

      BarbsSpot 4 years ago

      @RisingCaren...Fantastic video on the 4 Sun 14! I never had a secret box that secret!

    • PurplePansy LM profile image

      PurplePansy LM 5 years ago

      Yes, I have one! My roommate from Japan gave it to me. I love it because it is so pretty and it's also fun to play with.

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      I've never had one, but now I want one!

    • profile image

      AdriennePetersen 6 years ago

      Really interesting lens, thank you!

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      'Vikk Simmons 6 years ago from Houston

      Fun and informational. Reminded me of a past love.

    • nightbear lm profile image

      nightbear lm 6 years ago

      Very interesting lens on a subject I knew nothing about. I enjoyed your work. Blessed!

    • profile image

      SofiaMann 6 years ago

      Fantastic lens. Congratulations.

    • Nightmareartist profile image

      Melissa A Benson 6 years ago from Connecticut

      I had a puzzle ring once, but these boxes are fantastic! Beautiful and useful at the same time is always a good thing.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      I pressed the "send" button on my earlier message before mentioning that I've angel blessed this lens, and featuring it on my lens "Good Lenses Deserve Blessings"

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      I love things like this - so intriguing. when I was a child, we used to have a cocktail bar with a secret drawer in which my parents used to hide the key of the drinks department. Of course me and my brother worked out how to open the drawer, unlock the cupboard, take a swig of whatever sweet alcohol we could find, lock up, replace the key and totter off to play - we were very happy bunnies!

    • pimbels lm profile image

      pimbels lm 6 years ago

      No, but seen them makes me want one. They are beautiful. Great lens.

    • profile image

      KarenCookieJar 6 years ago

      I've always wanted one of these when I see them in movies or read about puzzle boxes in books. I don't have any super secret items to put in it though.

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 6 years ago from Upstate, NY

      When I was a teenager, I read a book in which a puzzle box played a significant part of the story. Since then, I've wanted one of these boxes for myself.

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 6 years ago from Upstate, NY

      When I was a teenager, I read a book in which a puzzle box played a significant part of the story. Since then, I've wanted one of these boxes for myself.

    • profile image

      Heard_Zazzle 6 years ago

      No, but the secret boxes featured here make me want one!

    • glenbrook profile image

      glenbrook 7 years ago

      My parents have a couple of these. The woodcutting is amazing.

    • Melvin Tandoc profile image

      Melvin Tandoc 7 years ago


    • Lady Gotrocks profile image

      Lady Gotrocks 7 years ago

      I always loved Puzzle boxes. I have had serveal.

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 7 years ago from Cheshire UK

      I have always loved these Japanese puzzle boxes and some of them can be amazing pieces of work!

    • MagpieNest profile image

      MagpieNest 7 years ago

      I love it! I have a small collection of Japanese puzzle boxes including the 14 step one you feature. It's gorgeous.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      What beautiful boxes. Never had one before but I sure would like one now.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      No, I have never had a secret box. I had heard of these before, but had never really known much about them. Seems to me they are incredibly intricately designed, and a stunning piece of workmanship. Love them. Well done on this 1 hour lens....and thank you soooo much for inspiring this challenge. I had a blast and it was a great eye-opening experience (i.e. I waste a lot of

    • Pmona LM profile image

      Pmona LM 7 years ago

      I've never had a secret box, but I sure would like to have one of the boxes in this lens. They are beautiful! For a '1 hour challenge' you did a pretty amazing job with this lens.

    • ChemKnitsBlog2 profile image

      ChemKnitsBlog2 7 years ago

      No... but now I want one!

      Thanks for creating such a fun challenge. But I think your lens kicked my lens's butt!