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. The box's 17 steps, modular units, hidden drawer, and layered veneers build on the tradition of complexity and secret-keeping while paying 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