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Last updated 26/2/2024


The Star-Shaped Box / Tsuno Kobako
This page is being used to record information about the history of the origami design known as the Star-Shaped Box. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other information that should be added. Thank you.

See also the Incense Box, which is a derivative design.


In China (and in publications by Chinese authors)


Diagrams for this design appear in 'Zhe zhi tu shuo' (Illustrated Paperfolding), compiled by Gui Shaolie, which was published by the Commercial Press in Shanghai in Ming guo 3 (1914).



The design also appears as an ' Incense Box' in 'Xu Zhe zhi tu shuo' (More Illustrated Paperfolding) by Yongxiang Shi, which was published by the Commercial Press in Shanghai in 1917.


In Japan (and in publications by Japanese authors)


As far as I know this design first appears in the historical record in 1734 in this print from the illustrated book 'Ranma Zushiki' by Hayato Ohoka. The design is pictured from above in the bottom left corner. The writing above the picture refers to this box as a 'folded pouch for perfume'.



The Star-Shaped Box also appears in this print known as 'Spring' from the children's four seasons series by Gorakutei Sadahiro, which can be dated to between 1830 and 1847. The kimono of the child at the back is patterned with Paper Cranes, Paper Boats and Star-Shaped Boxes (in both white and blue). The child at the front is playing battledore. There is a shide hanging from the branch above them. Source: 'Oru Kokoro', the catalogue of an exhibition on paperfolding history held in Tatsuno City History and Culture Museum in 1999.



Diagrams for the Star-Shaped Box appear in 'Shukoka Kyoju Saian' by Gentaro Tanahashi and Hideyoshi Okayama, which was published by Hobunkan in Tokyo in 1905.



Diagrams for the Star-Shaped Box also appear in 'Origami zusetsu' (Illustrated Origami) by Sano Shozo, which was published in Tokyo in 1908.



A drawing of the Star-shaped Box appears in a monozukushi-e print, by an unknown artist, but said to be from the Meiji era. I have temporarily assigned it the date of 1912, the last year of that era, pending the discovery of more accurate information.


Diagrams for this design also appear in:


'Origami (Part 1)' by Isao Honda, which was published (in Japan) in 1931.



'Origami Moyo, Book Two' by Kawarazaki Kodo, which was published in Japan in 1935, contains a print showing the Star-Shaped Box.



T'The World of Origami' by Isao Honda, which was published in the USA by Japan Publications Trading Company in 1965.



The Star-shaped Box appears as 'Basket B' in Origami in the Classroom: Book 1: Activities for autumn through Christmas' by Chiyo Araki, which was published by Charles E Tuttle Co Inc in 1965.


In Western Europe and the Americas


'La Nature' Issue 2855 of 15th April 1931 contained an article by Albers headed 'Pliages de Papier' and subheaded 'Le Sac a Bonbons' which explained how to make the Star-Shaped Box. Albers comments, roughly translated, 'Several similar folds have been sent to me by different readers, MM, Larrier, a Marseille, E. J, a W etc,. Because they bear a great similarity to the box above I have not published these folds ...'

It is possible either that this is an independent rediscovery of the traditional Japanese design in Europe or that the Japanese design had somehow become known in France. The latter is perhaps more likely since we know that Isao Honda had spent time in Paris in around 1908 when he was studying Western painting.