A himitsu-bako is a traditional Japanese puzzle box, originating from the region of Hakone. The first Japanese puzzle boxes were unadorned and only required a few steps - they were used for workers' tools so that they would be difficult to steal. Eventually however, the himitsu-bako became a heightened art form used in imperial court to safeguard secrets. It appeared like a seamless block of wood and was heavily adorned with Japanese marquetry known as yosegi-zaiku. Some of the most complicated ones had over 100 steps to open.

This piece is a modern take on the himitsu-bako, using laser-cut wood as opposed to traditional marquetry techniques. Though it is comprised of only 17 steps, the box's the modular units, hidden drawer, and layered veneers build on the tradition of complexity and secret-keeping. This piece is also an attempt to pay homage to fast-fading craft of Japanese puzzle box-making.

Himitsu-Bako from Jasmine Shen on Vimeo.

Birch, Walnut, Cherry
3.875" x 4.88" x 8"
Length: 4 sun

sun: traditional Japanese unit to measure length. Himitsu-bako boxes were measured using the sun system.

Photos: Dorothy Lin / Noa Kaplan