Solving A Japanese Puzzle Box

Step One

Figure Out How Hard It Is!

As we explained in our puzzle box article, the difficulty of Himitsu-Bako (the proper name for Japanese Puzzle Boxes) is ranked in Steps. The more Steps, the harder the wooden puzzle will be. The goal is to get the the secret opening, but this can take anything from 6 to hundreds of Steps to achieve. There are usually no drawers, but rather the box is opened by performing a series of sequential modifications. If your wooden box comes with instructions, it is worth checking the internal workings of the box before you get going.


Step Two

Patience Is A Virtue

Buckle up. You could be here for a while. It might take you hours, days or even weeks to crack the secret of your puzzle box. It's a bit like learning magic tricks. You need patience. It all depends on how many Steps are involved, and how lucky you are!

Step Three


It’s likely that some of the Yosegi-Zaiku design is hiding a panel that will slide. Normally one of the outside panels will slide - even if it is just a little - which will allow you to start getting to the secret compartment.


Step Four

Keep Going

Try different directions. One panel may move to the left, and the next to the right. You may need to press, slide, lift or unlock different sections. There may be magnets holding certain parts together. You may need to use gravity or inertia to get to the next step. It's like sleight of hand! You’re going to have to keep at work on all sides of the box - and always in the same order. Every time. One Step could be a sliding action that moves a piece just a few millimeters, the next a few centimetres. Don’t push too hard though, you could damage your trick box irreparably. Often a key is hidden within one of the sections that you’ll need to open the final hidden compartment.

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