Tuesday 8 March 2016

Karakuri Christmas 2015

…a little(!) late, but here’s my customary post on my Karakuri Christmas gifts from last year…

Their timing was pretty spot-on this year, with my package of Christmas goodies from Japan just clearing customs in time for Christmas… which meant there was Japanese puzzle box goodness under the Christmas tree alongside the Stickman-goodness that I’ve already told you about.

This year I ordered gifts from six artists… making me formally a creature of habit! 

Let’s start with easily the cutest among my selection, Osamu Kasho’s Panda – instantly recognisable as the sad-faced panda, this one is going to be a firm favourite in the cute-stakes. While not hugely challenging, I have seen grown puzzlers spend more than a couple of minutes finding the first move on this little cutie… which makes it officially a puzzle and not just a curiosity in my books! And you gotta love that face…

Next up is Tatsuo Miyamoto’s Book – again not a super-complex puzzle, although it requires twice as many steps as the Panda, but this one’s execution is really terrific. The choice of woods and the use of grain is really excellent – so not only does the cover and spine look like it should, but the grain on the sides gives the impression of a book’s pages as well – and the puzzle mechanism incorporates elements that you’d expect from a book-shaped puzzle… I rather like it!

Kamei produced a variation on his well-known theme with his Box with a Ribbon III – it really looks the part and there’s a lovely little bit of subterfuge with a nod back to previous incarnations as well… I enjoyed the solving experience but have had one or two folks mention that their copies tended to solve themselves, which might provide a bit of a disappointment… mine has just the right amount of tolerance to let you find things reasonably easily without any chance of it spontaneously opening. 

Mr Monkey from Shiro Tajima is a super cool-looking puzzle – when it starts it looks like a monkey’s head on a little stand… manipulating that stand turns it into a pair of shades for the now super-chilled simian. 
It’s hard not to smile at him… once again the ape’s best features have been turned into the means of opening this little puzzle box and it is a rather interesting sequence of moves – quite unlike anything else I’ve come across before…

Hideaki Kawashima’s Twin 3 is another extension on a design theme – this time taking things to a whole other plane… finding the first move on this puzzle is interesting… after the first move they sort of get a little more predictable, for a while, then they veer off in altogether another direction entirely… and rest assured, when you think you’ve found it all, you probably haven’t… this one has a lot of secrets to give up.

Finally in my bunch was Bean Bag Drawer 2 from Hiroshi Iwahara – building on last year’s Bean Bag Drawer. This one looks a bit like a playground bruiser – and fiddling around with the obvious interesting bits yields a pretty simple means of getting the drawer half open… but getting it fully open and gaining access to the second secret compartment is you real mission… you’ll need to pay quite a lot of attention to those locking mechanisms and establish just how and why they sometimes behave a little differently and then learn how to exploit that for good… a very satisfying puzzle to (eventually!) solve... easily the hardest solve in the bunch!

As usual I was pretty chuffed with this (OK, last) year’s selection – a couple of really interesting tough puzzles and some really nice puzzles that I might not have given a second look had I been forced to choose them from a line-up in a web-shop – but all thoroughly nice puzzles that I won’t be letting go of any time soon…

The Karakuri Club membership is still a cracking deal for picking up some interesting Japanese puzzle boxes… as long as you don’t mind being surprised by what you get as you only get to select the craftsmen and have no idea what they’re going to produce until your presents arrive, hopefully just before Christmas… go on, spoil yourself! :-)


  1. Allard, I expected you to get all 8 (or 9) presents!

  2. ...sorry to disappoint Jerry...

    1. there's always this coming Christmas....

  3. Hello Allard,
    Do you know where to buy those puzzles? i have been looking for those puzzle for a long time. thank you

    1. ...I got them from the Karakuri Club...