The Public Paperfolding History Project

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The Cubical Box / Tematebako / The Japanese Hexagon Puzzle Box
 
Diagrams for this design can be found here
 
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of the design known as the Tematebako (treasure chest), which is made by combining six Thread Containers to create a cube. Each face of the cube can be opened independently to give access to the interior space. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other important information that should be added. Thank you.

The Cubical Box / Tematebako

In Japan (and in publications by Japanese authors)

1734

Two drawings of a cube, from slightly different angles, are included in a print in the book 'Ranma Zushiki' by Hayato Ohoka, which was published in 1734. The wording calls it a 'tematebako' or 'treasure chest'.

According to Kunihiko Kasahara, writing in 'Extreme Origami', published by Sterling in 2002 (but originally published in German in 2001 by Augustus Verlag) the modular method was reconstructed by Masao Okamura. However, there is nothing in the print itself to identify the specific modular method by which the cube would have been made, and, as far as I am aware, there are no other contemporary references that would help. It is possible therefore that this cube is not the cube we call the Tematebako today.

The name Tematebako derives from a Japanese legend, somewhat similar to the Greek tale of Pandora's Box. Details of this story can also be found in Kunihiko Kasahara's book

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1932

According to information received from Koshiro Hatori diagrams for the Tematebako first appear in 'Origami (Part 2)' by Isao Honda, which was published in Japan in 1932. I have not seen a copy of this work.

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1965

Diagrams for a modular cube made from six cut Thread Containers, called the 'Cubical Box', but which is now commonly called the 'Tematebako', appear in 'The World of Origami' by Isao Honda, which was published in the USA by Japan Publications Trading Company in 1965.

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In Western Europe / The USA

1936

Diagrams for a 'Harlequin Stamp Box' appear in 'Paper Toy Making' by Margaret Campbell, which was first published by Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons Ltd in London, probably in 1937, although both the Foreword and Preface are dated 1936 (which argues that the book was complete at that date). Here, the Thread Containers are referred to as 'Envelopes'. The name Stamp Box derives from the idea that the 'Envelopes' might be used to hold stamps rather than thread.

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The Japanese Hexagon Puzzle Box

In Japan (and in publications by Japanese authors)

1965

This design appears as the 'Six-Sided Box' and, with added tassles, as the 'Hanging Ornament' in 'The World of Origami' by Isao Honda, which was published in the USA by Japan Publications Trading Company in 1965.

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In Western Europe / The USA

1922

Diagrams for a cuboctahedral design of similar construction appear in 'Houdini's Paper Magic', which was published by E P Dutton and Company of New York in 1922, under the title of 'Japanese Hexagon Puzzle Box'.

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