July 14, 2010

Hakone Puzzle Party and Awards Banquet

After getting my fill of puzzle boxes at the Karakuri Exhibit, I headed over to the puzzle party which was just starting. This was quite similar to the Osaka Puzzle Party, but there were a bunch of new tables, including one by the Karakuri Creation Group.

In this photo, you can see a demonstration that was set up in the middle of the room where a craftsman was demonstrating the precision of Japanese wood planes. He was planing off ribbons of wood that were so thin, it was incredible!

The Karakuri Creation Group's table was mobbed, since they were selling a lot of the puzzles that were new releases. They had sold a few copies at the Karakuri Box Sale two days ago, but now they had more for sale, so people were pretty eager to buy them. I had spent a good bit of money already and they were pretty expensive, so I didn't buy anything new today.

I did, however, bring the 3 Brothers box that I purchased during the Karakuri Box Sale to see if I could trade it for something different. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I got a chance to try out a different copy before I had unwrapped by own and didn't like it all that much.

I tried to see if the Karakuri folks would trade with me, but they weren't interested. Oh well! There was another table by Izumiya, the puzzle shop we visited yesterday, that had some boxes. I asked if they'd be willing to trade my 3 Brothers for Secret Base, a nice little puzzle box that won a First Prize in the 2008 design competition.

They replied that 3 Brothers was worth more than Secret Base, which I was aware of, so I asked if they'd throw in 5000 Yen, to even it out. They agreed, which I was pretty happy about, because I ended up breaking even on the deal (i.e. it would have worked out the same if I didn't buy 3 Brothers at all and just purchased Secret Base from them). Woo hoo! Plus, it was a significantly smaller puzzle, so that would be easier for me to pack.

I wandered around the puzzle party for a while, but it is less fun when you're not buying stuff, so eventually Kellian and I decided to take a little trip around Hakone before the Awards Banquet. She found that there was a neat little train that weaved through the mountains up to a different town, so we decided to ride it for a bit.

The cool thing about this train is that it goes up a pretty steep mountain, so the track is built as a number of switchbacks: as the train goes up the mountain first it goes in one direction, then it stops and goes in the other direction to proceed up the mountain. Sort of hard to explain, but here's a photo of one of the switchbacks. The train came from the right hand side (down the mountain) and would leave through the left hand side.

The trip was quite nice, though I wish we had a bit more time to explore. We had to hustle back in time for the banquet and ended up getting there about 20 minutes late. Oh well!

Unfortunately for Kellian, the banquet didn't have much for vegetarians: even the pasta had fish eggs on it! It is a bit tragic that we paid like $100 each for a meal where she can't really eat anything other than a few potatoes. This was the case for all of the banquets, unfortunately. We'll know better next time!

At the banquet, as a thanks to Edi Nagata, Jerry Slocum and Hiroshi Iwahara prested Edi with a thank-you gift: a puzzle box! I didn't get a good look at it, but I'm sure it was pretty neat. I think it is one-of-a-kind, which is very cool.

After that, Edi thanked his team which was surprisingly large. It sure does take a lot of people to pull this event off, particularly considering that there were two separate locations for the convention. That must have taken a lot of planning.

Finally, it was the moment we were all eagerly anticipating, the announcement of the winners of the design competition! Nick Baxter runs the design competition, so he went up to make the presentation of the winners.

In the design competition, there are a number of awards that are given out by a jury, as well as one award (the Puzzlers' Award) that is chosen by a vote among all attendees. This year, Nick announced that certificates would also be given to puzzles that were among the top 10 vote-getters, but that didn't get a jury prize. This was a great idea, since there are so many puzzles it is good for more of them to be recognized. I later learned that this was Stephen Chin's idea, who was quite happy that Nick had listened to his suggestion.

Top 10 Vote-Getters

1 Pinko Ringo by Stephen Chin - This was a beautiful puzzle that is a lot of fun to play with. It is based on Wayne Daniel's 10-piece Icosahedrons. It was superbly crafted from exotic woods and fits together quite nicely. It is also a fun puzzle to play with: if you know the trick, it comes apart quite easily. Otherwise, it can be pretty difficult.

Getting it back together also isn't too bad once you get the hang of it, but the 10 oddly shaped pieces can be a bit daunting. The puzzle has small marks to indicate the order of reassembly, which helps if you can figure out what they are indicating. Overall, a very cool puzzle and definitely worthy of recognition.

Bicone by Vinco Obsivac - This is another very nice looking puzzle, I love the pattern on the outside. It has a very unique shape, which also makes it more difficult to disassemble since it is hard to keep track of its orientation.

Like most of Vinco's recent work, this is a coordinate motion puzzle that is pretty tricky. You need to push the pieces in just the right way to get it to slide apart, but it is difficult to tell which parts are separate pieces!

With a bit of wiggling, I was able to get this one apart eventually. It slides apart nicely into four different pieces. Getting it back together is a bit tricky, since everything must be lined up just right.

Everlasting Gobstopper by Lee Krasnow - This is a really remarkably beautiful puzzle. It has been crafted out of a variety of exotic woods and is very precisely made. So precisely, in fact, that it is even difficult to figure out how to get the pieces apart, much less figure out how to re-assemble them into a particular shape.

This puzzle is based on Stewart Coffin's "Pennydoodle" puzzle, and can be assembled into a variety of shapes. However, since it is not based on cubic geometry, it is very difficult to figure out. I spent maybe 10-15 minutes on it and barely scratched the surface.

I would have liked to spend more time with this one, but I'm afraid that even with more time I probably couldn't have figured it out. This one is tough! The one downside to this puzzle for me was that the pieces are quite sharp. Each comes to a point that could do some damage if you're not careful. Still, it is an exquisite puzzle!

Latch Cube by Katsuhiko Okamoto - This is an interesting variation on a Rubik's Cube where the arrows on certain pieces indicate which rotations are possible. There is an internal racheting system that enables this. Very interesting idea that opens up a ton of new possibilities for twisty puzzles.

I didn't spend much time on this one since it looks pretty difficult and my time was limited. I didn't purchase one for myself, but might buy one at some point since they're not very expensive (around $20).

Lighthouse Puzzle by Robert Yarger - This was probably one of the puzzles that I was most excited to try out. I had the opportunity to buy one when they first came up for sale and opted not to, since they were quite pricy, so I was eager to see what I was missing out on.

As you can see from the photo, it is quite a striking puzzle. Being from New England, I love the lighthouse-inspired design. As a puzzle, it is pretty cool as well. First you need to figure out how to get the lighthouse off of its rocky base, then you need to figure out how to access its two hidden compartments.

Getting it off of the base wasn't too difficult, though I saw a number of people who didn't realize that this was the first step trying in vain to get it to open without removing it. I guess that's part of the puzzle!

Actually opening the two compartments proved quite a bit more difficult. I worked on this one on and off for about an hour and didn't have much luck. There is threading along the outside of the lighthouse, and you can turn the circular piece to move it up and down along the threads.

This system was a bit prone to jamming, which was a bit frustrating. In addition, there was an additional locking system that I was unaware of, which made it feel like things were jamming when in fact it was just the locking system engaging. It is quite a challenging and beautiful puzzle!

One Four All and All Four One by Houlis, Dyskin, Kanel-Belov, Pasternak, Estrin - This was another very interesting puzzle that needs a bit of explanation: the goal is to put the four pieces into the frame (which has no bottom) in such a way so that the pieces do not fall out when the frame is lifted.

At first, this seems like an impossible task, which makes it an appealing puzzle. I didn't spend much time with this one either. Before I got the chance, I glimpsed somebody else solving it, which kind of gives the trick away. Still, a unique and interesting puzzle!

Jury Honorable Mention

Cast Rattle by Bram Cohen - I was quite excited to see another puzzle added to the Cast Puzzles series by Hanayama. This one is a four-piece disassembly puzzle designed by Bram Cohen.

Despite my enjoyment of this type of puzzle, I actually only spent about 10 minutes on it and was unable to solve it. I decided that my time would be better spent on puzzles that I wouldn't have the chance to try again. This isn't available yet, but I'll definitely be buying it when it is.

Ex 3 by Hiroshi Yamamoto - This is another puzzle that needs some explanation: the goal is to assemble these three pieces into a symmetric shape. It is a very simple puzzle, with only 3 pieces made out of acrylic, but it is quite difficult.

It is an interesting variation on your usual assembly puzzle, where the goal is to make a specific shape. Here, you don't know exactly what the shape is, just that it needs to be symmetric.

I worked on this one for a little bit, but didn't spend too much time on it since this isn't a type of puzzle that I enjoy much. I peeked at the solution just to see if there was any trickery involved, and indeed there is not. The pieces can all be flat on the table and it makes a 2D symetric shape. It isn't one where the shape is the white space between the pieces or something like that.

Homage Puzzle by Simon Nightingale - This puzzle pays homage to Nob Yoshigahara's Dualock Puzzle. Visually, it looks like Dualock with the mechanism exposed. However, when you try to spin it to unlock it, the rods are actually driven towards the center rather than away as you would expect. Pretty clever!

I didn't find the actual solution to this one to be quite as interesting, unfortunately. With a bit of fiddling I was able to get it open pretty easily. Still, it is a very cool idea and is nicely crafted, which is likely why it did so well in the competition.

First Prize

Four Direction Drawer by Hiroshi Iwahara - Iwahara is a member of the Karakuri Creation Group, and this was his 2009 Christmas present, which I received. As I mentioned previously, I really like this puzzle. The goal is to open all four drawers which is pretty tricky though doable.

It is superbly crafted and a lot of fun to play with. At first, only the bottom drawer will open. After a bit of fiddling, you will discover the unique way in which the drawers are related.

This was my favorite puzzle among all of the competition entries. Very nice!

Harmony by Dmitry Pevnitskiy and Kirill Grebnev - This puzzle also won the Puzzler's Award, which means that it received the most votes among IPP invitees. As you can see, it is a visually striking puzzle. The goal is to separate the note from the treble clef.

The flowing lines of this puzzle are quite appealing, and it is nicely crafted out of brass. It didn't take me long to figure out the solution to this one: you can see how it must come off fairly easily.

My one complaint about this one is that if the vertical piece that goes through the center of the spiral gets bent off center (which it does fairly easily), some slight force is required in solving it. This threw me off a bit, as I looked for a solution that required zero force.

Still, a graceful puzzle that is sure to be appreciated by both puzzlers and non-puzzlers, since it isn't too difficult. I hope that this will be made available to public, perhaps by Hanayama! It was not available for sale at the time of the puzzle party.

Jury Grand Prize

New Secret Box II-2 by Akio Kamei - Kamei entered a very nice box this year. Not only do all of the faces of this box move, but there is also a sliding panel on each face. It takes a total 30 moves to open, though the sequence is fairly straightforward once you get the pattern.

I didn't find this one to be too hard to solve, since it progresses in a fairly logical way. It is very nicely crafted and the operation is quite smooth.

I haven't seen a box that has sliders on every face before, so I think this might be the innovation that won this puzzle the grand prize.

Phew! That is the end of all the award winners, but stay tuned for future blog entries when I'll be going through all the other design competition entries.

After the awards banquet, everybody hung around and talked for a while. It had been a long IPP, but I still didn't want it to end. After we got kicked out of the banquet hall, Kellian and I sat down in the lobby with Jim Strayer, Jeff Aurand, and Matt and chatted for a while until it was time to go to bed.

What an awesome experience! I can hardly wait until next year when the 31st International Puzzle Party will be making its way to Europe.

Karakuri Exhibit (Part 3)

Continuing along on my 3-part series about the awesome Karakuri Creation Group exhibit at IPP3, here are the last three tables in the exhibit. Here are Part 1 and Part 2.

I'm not too sure about the actual names of a number of the puzzles on this table, since many are not on the website or in the Karakuri Creation Group book. I think all of the stuff on the near side of the table is by Humio Tuburai. The little cart was cute, and has a unique mechanism that is related to the fact that it is a cart. I did not attempt String Box Part II (2009) and also did not try Just a Minute (2007), though I saw Jim Strayer working on it and understand the principal. I'm curious how the mechanism actually works. The larger box with the pillars and the purple block on the top had a lot of misdirection in it, which I don't like much. The actual solution is pretty simple.

The man on the toilet is an interesting idea: you actually need to guide the little person to do the correct motions in order to unlock the box. Pretty neat idea! The see-saw seemed to work like I would have expected. Though I don't think I got it entirely figured out, I was able to open and close it. Finally, Chocolate Cake (2010) is also somewhat interesting. It has an unusual motion that could take a little while to figure out.

Kazuyuki Tanaka and Humio Tuburai collaborated on Open Top (2000), which works like you would expect. What you might not expect is the speed at which you need to spin it: you really need to get it going for it to unlock! The cool part is that you need to pluck the top off while it is spinning, and the open base continues spinning.

The Card Case Karakuri Plane (2007) was made by Yukio Ogura. It isn't really a puzzle, though it is pretty neat. As you use the plane on the included piece of wood, it dispenses a business card much like a wood shaving from a plane. You can't really see it in the picture, but in the back right is his Ice Lolly Card Case (2010), which is a simple puzzle box that can also contain business cards.

I'm not sure who made the large box, but it was kind of interesting: depending on which combination of the top 3 slides you slide, you can open one of the drawers on the front. It wasn't much of a puzzle since the operation was indicated by labelled pieces of tape, though.

This next table had a bunch of puzzles by one of my favorite puzzle-box craftsman, Hiroshi Iwahara. He has done a bunch of cool stuff recently, so definitely keep an eye on him. Onigiri/Rice Ball (2008) is a nice little box, but not particularly challenging. It has two compartments that can be unlocked. The next box is called Super-CUBI (2000), which is a trinary version of Kamei's binary box Cubi. It takes 324 moves to open, so I didn't actually open this one.

I did not solve Ichigo Shortcake (2006) and I didn't try Sushi (2008) since Kellian bought it for me and I wanted to save it for when I get home. Look for a full writeup on it once I finally get to writing about the stuff I bought. (It is quite cool!)

The Pencil Stand (2009) is a nice little box that is also functional. It is easy to access the hidden compartment, but easy to miss the fact that there is a second one, so keep looking! I played around with Box with a Tree (2007), the simple-looking box with the small tree on it, but was unable to figure it out. This is another one that I would like to revisit at some point, since it sounds like it has an interesting solution. I didn't attempt Byway Secret 2 (2002), since I heard it was similar to Rob Jones' exchange puzzle which I purchased, so I didn't want to spend time on it.

Secret Base (2007) is an awesome puzzle, I actually ended up purchasing it at the puzzle party later today. Finally, I tried Sliding 3 Drawer Chest (2009), which is a cute little puzzle as well, but not too difficult.

Hooray, I'm on the last table! The first box in the lower left, Goat Card Case (2009) by Kanae Saito, isn't really a puzzle. You place a card in the front, and when you open the drawer the goat picks it up. When you close the drawer, he drops it into the box. Somewhat cute, but not my kind of thing. Taiyaki Card Case is similarly not much of a puzzle, it has a simple mechanism to open it and can store some business cards.

Continuing down the line are puzzles by Yoko Kakuda, who tends to do a lot of animal themes, as you can see. The one with the penguin is called Goodnight (2007), and is pretty cute, though simple. Rice Bird (2007) lays an egg as you solve it, which is somewhat amusing. Again, the solution is pretty simple. Adhesive Tape (2008) was more interesting and challenging, it took me a minute or two to figure this one out and I liked it. My Butter (2008), the cow, is another fairly simple one, but I enjoyed it. Gombo (2009), the cat, is another fairly simple one that wasn't one of my favorites. Secret Stripes (2009) is a zebra that is not in the picture. The stripes are perfect for concealing the hidden sliders, which makes this one a bit trickier. I also enjoyed this one.

Starting in the far back corner are two puzzles by Hideaki Kawashima. The light-colored one is called Rose (2010) and is his 2010 design competition entry. I liked it, though the movement was a bit stiff. Compared to the flowing curves of Kamei's Rose, the square shape of this one was less pleasing. However, the way it opens is like a rose, so that was nice. It requires five moves to open, compared with Kamei's three. The second box is Regular Dodecahedron Box (2008), which I didn't have time to try, unfortunately.

Finally, the last two boxes are by Kyoko Hoshino who likes to incorporate fabric into her trick boxes. The plaid fabric box is called Wrapping Box and was her 2010 Christmas present. I was actually pleasantly surprised with this one! There is a box in the bag, and you can't take it out, but you can still access a hidden compartment. Pretty interesting concept, since you can't rely much on sight to figure out what is going on here.

The second box is Dango/Japanese Cake (2009). This one is a bit odd, since the drawer slides open without any effort, which confused me a bit since I didn't know if there was anything else to it. I played around with it for a while without any luck and since I was out of time, I asked Miyamoto for the solution. It is pretty simple, but I hadn't found it. The cloth made me a bit reluctant to fiddle with it, since I was unsure of what I can do without the fabric coming unglued.

Alright! That brings us to the end of this three-part series on the Karakuri exhibit. As you can see there were a ton of amazing boxes and I had a great time trying them out! I was pretty happy that I was able to make my way through them in 3 hours, even though I skipped a few and wasn't able to solve them all. It is very interesting to see so many of the ideas that this group has come up with, they certainly are creative. In the next post, I'll continue my regular blogging about the rest of the last day of the puzzle party.

Karakuri Exhibit (Part 2)

Well, my post about today ended up being so long that I had to break it down into a few separate posts. Check out Part 1 if you're just joining us.

The next table had, you guessed it, even more boxes by Akio Kamei! I started out with Hamburger (1997), which has a great appearance. It took me a while to figure out the trick: even though it was an old principal, I didn't recognize it in this form. I found Outlet to be pretty easy, since there aren't many options for how to proceed. It isn't as simple as just sticking the plug in the outlet, however.

Sakura Mochi (2009), the one with the leaf,  is a new one by Kamei, and his a cute mechanism. It is similar to a mechanism in another puzzle on this table, and pretty tricky to find! This copy was a bit worn, which makes it easier to discover. It seems like this type of wear would happen fairly quickly on this type of mechanism, but who knows how many people have played with it.

Bar of Chocolate (2006) is pretty trivial, though it looks nice. Kamaboko (2008) is the one that looks like a rolled yellow cake of some sort. I don't recall how this one opens, perhaps I skipped it. I didn't solve Hot Miso Soup (2007), though I saw some folks working on it and got the general idea. From the looks of it, the mechanism is a bit fiddly.

Cosmox (1990) has a unique round shape, and a tricky mechanism to discover. It is similar to the mechanism in one of the Small Box series, though in the small box it is a bit easier since it is square rather than round. Pneumatic Box (1991) is an interesting one, you can probably guess what is involved in the solution. Kamei managed to do this concept in a manner that does not require putting your mouth on the box, which is nice. The mechanism is a bit fiddly though, but perhaps it is easier once you get the knack of it.

Starting back at the other side is Cake (1985) and Coffee Cup (1985) were made as a set. The solution to Coffee Cup makes sense, which makes it quite easy. The solution to Cake has nothing to do with the fact that it is a piece of cake, and is more difficult. It bugs me when implements are purely decorative, and this is the case for the fork and (arguably) the spoon as well.

Barmkuchen (2010) is the round yellow cake with the hole in the center. I didn't find the solution to this one to be  particularly clever. Stapler (2008) is pretty nice, I found it to be somewhat challenging, but eventually figured it out and was surprised that it took me so long.

Can (2000) is a nice one, I was playing around with it a bit without much luck, so somebody gave me the helpful hint to think about who eats spinach. I was pretty surprised by the solution, since it was unlike anything I had seen before and I didn't know it was possible.

Both Milk Container (1983) and Whiskey Bottle (1983) employ a trick that Kamei likes to use where the first compartment is fairly obvious, and the second is harder to find. Since the first compartment is large, the solver can neglect to look for the second one if they don't know that it exists. I don't think I found either of these to be particularly difficult, though my memory of both is a bit foggy.

Phew, that's all of the Kamei boxes! The next table had the work of four different craftsmen, the first of which is Tatuo Miyamoto. Odawara Lantern (2008) is fairly easy, but it is fun to play around with, since it changes shape as you solve it. I really enjoyed Fortune Cards (2006), it has a fairly simple trick, but it is well executed. The compartment springs open when you succeed, which I think is a nice touch. It really adds to the "Aha!" moment.

Clamp (2009) was Miyamoto's Christmas present last year, and I was quite curious how it worked after seeing pictures, since it looked like an interesting one. Both the movements of a clamp and the movements of a secret box are utilized in this one. A Chance Meeting (2006) is a clever design as well. You can probably guess what is involved, but it might end up being a bit trickier than you would expect.

Kuru Kuru Heart (2003) will probably remind you of the locket in the movie "The Illusionist." It doesn't work quite that way, but it transforms from an oval into a heart. This one is fairly easy. The fairly nondescript  brown box is Romantic Cake (2010) and when you remove the lid you see a heart-shaped cake. I don't recall the solution to this one, but I think it took me a minute or so to figure out.

Continuing along the far side counterclockwise are three boxes by Shiro Tajima, the first of which is amusingly named The Tiger of Carboholic (2009). I had tried this one at Brett Kuehner's house and thought it was fairly clever. The next one, Goblet Secret (2006) is a nice one. It uses the classic double-image of two faces, where the space between the faces looks like a goblet. The solution is just like a standard secret box, but when the two faces kiss, the box is ready to open. Interesting idea! The last box is The Hermit Crab Box (2006), which isn't much of a puzzle, though it is fairly cute.

Next up were a few puzzles by Hiroyuki Oka, the first of which is Maze5+2steps (2009). I didn't try it again since I had tried this at Brett's house as well, so I'm not exactly sure of the solution, but I remember liking it. Honeybee is a cute box that looks like a flower, with a little wooden bee. The solution is simple, though it is well implemented. I didn't get a chance to try the geometric looking one, Butterfly (2000), but I enjoyed the next one which was Checked Secret Box (2001). It requires several moves to open and isn't too difficult.

The last craftsman on the table was Hideto Satou. Jacket (2000) is an interesting looking one, but the solution is quite simple (as is much of Satou's work). I did not solve Mailbox (2005), since I guessed that it was they type that you need to put a certain amount (weight) of coins in it for it to open, similar to the next one Moneybank (2009). The final box is Openable Box, which is more of a curiosity than a puzzle: regardless of which side is up, the drawer will always open in the correct orientation with the opening facing upwards. Not my type of thing, but pretty cool nonetheless.

Ok, two more tables done! Three more remain, hopefully I can wrap it up in one more post and get on with the puzzle party and awards banquet!

Karakuri Exhibit (Part 1)

All of today's photos are here.

Today was absolutely amazing: in the Hakone Local Museum, the Karakuri Group set up an exhibit with around 100 different puzzle boxes! Not only that, but they were all laid out on tables so we could try them out.

I hardly knew what to do with myself or where to begin, there were so many boxes that I had seen in photos, but never thought that I'd have a chance to try! Where would I even start?

I decided to start on the far end with the Kamei boxes and just work my way through all of them. I only had 3 hours, so I had to carefully decide how much time I was going to spend with each puzzle before moving on. Luckily, it wasn't crowded at all since most people were at the lectures. Kawashima and Miyamoto, two Karakuri craftsmen, were supervising the room. If I really got stuck, I asked for a hint from them so I could keep moving.

It would take quite a while to write about each of these in detail, and I'm not sure if I remember enough to do so, so I'll just be giving a sentence or two on each and skip some of them. Some of the photos are taken by Jeff Aurand, my battery died before I got all of the tables photographed since I forgot to charge my battery. He posted a ton of great photos here.

I started out in the back corner, which was all boxes by Kamei. Incredibly, there was a copy of his Apricot Box (2002), which is extremely valuable. We weren't allowed to try this one, which was too bad (but understandable!) The previous day, Kamei actually demonstrated how to open it, but I wasn't there. Jeff got some photos though!

King Crown (1997) uses the same mechanism as Pile of Disks 2. It is a nice looking box, though!  Rose-Wood (1990) is beautiful with its flowing lines: not only does it look like a rose, the way it opens is also related to a rose. It is a pleasing but simple design.

Train Engine (1997) was not one of my favorites, though I did appreciate how the mechanism incorporates the movement of a component on a real train, though it is not obvious. The inlay on the Small Frame (1996) was nice, though I found the solution to be a bit simple for my taste.

Gift Box (1983) is also nice, though the trick is quite simple. It would be a good box to use if you actually wanted to store something. There are 3 large compartments that are easy to access, since they are unlocked directly, not sequentially. Zig-Zag (1989) was really cool. It looks like a normal rectangular box, but there are two diagonal cuts that have been made through the box, around which the parts of the box can rotate. This makes it change shape in a number of interesting ways. I found this one to be a bit tricky since it opens in an unusual way.

Paper Bag (2000) is pretty neat as well. You need to manipulate the contents of the bag to reveal a hidden compartment. I wasn't able to figure this one out without help from Miyamoto. I probably would have gotten it eventually if I had more time to spend on it. There is actually a second compartment that I wasn't able to find either that Miyamoto didn't show me. I'll need to check this one out again sometime!

The next table had a mix of puzzles by Kamei and Ninomiya. In the bottom right is Trick Box with a Top (2006), which is a beautiful box that contains a top. I liked how the top is actually integrated into the mechanism, not simply placed inside the compartment as you may expect.

Skipping over five boxes, we arrive at Pentagon Box (1984), which is absolutely brilliant. I tried this one for a little while and did not succeed. Later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw somebody else solving it which kind of spoiled it for me. It is a pretty tricky one! I think it could have taken me a while. The solution is very clever. I'd love to get one of these, but the only ones I can find for sale are quite expensive. Bits and Pieces made a replica that isn't bad, but they aren't making them anymore.

Flower Stand (1992), the large striped vase, was quite striking, but it uses the same mechanism as King Crown and Pile of Disks 2. The one that I am working on in this photo is Gold Chest (1985). I was surprised that I wasn't able to solve it since I have the Bits and Pieces reproduction of it. Perhaps the mechanism was more subtle, or I didn't spend enough time on it. I wasn't able to solve Time Bomb (1985) either. Jim Strayer thought that the mechanism might have been broken, since he knew how to solve it and wasn't able to solve this version. It is a neat idea for a puzzle box though! Bottle in Rome (1998) is a cute puzzle, but not too hard to solve. There is a bit of a trap for the solver that is amusing.

This table was also filled with boxes by Kamei. One of my more amusing memories is of Kawashima demonstrating how to solve Bad Radio (1987). I can't really relate the story without giving away the solution, so skip this paragraph if you don't want to know. He indicated that I needed to hit it, so I hit it a few times and it didn't do anything. He said I wasn't doing it hard enough, but I was reluctant to hit it any harder, so I gave it to him to show me. He then put it on the floor and whacks the hell out of it with his elbow, causing the compartments to spring open. Very funny!

The Fan (1992) box is not bad, but not one of my favorites. It uses a fairly common principal, but is more amusing I think if you are Japanese. According to Kamei's description, whacking a fan against your hand is an "I got it!" gesture in Japan, which relates to the solution of this one.

Heart to Heart (1987) is a very cool one. It is the heart shaped box with the buttons. It has 8 buttons on each side, all of which must be pressed for the box to open. Because of this, it requires two people to open. Kawashima was kind enough to be my second person, which was pretty amusing.

To the right of Heart to Heart is Unclosed Drawer (1995) which is an interesting puzzle: rather than trying to open the drawers, the object is to close the drawers. If you close one, the other pops open. This one took me a little while to figure out. The next one is Box with Ribbon (1996). I have the Bits and Pieces replica of it, which is pretty much the same as the original here. It is a sneaky one!

Toaster (1998) is life-size, making for a large and heavy box. I found the solution to be somewhat un-satisfying, since it is not really related to the motion you might expect from a toaster. Also, there are a number of red-herrings which I found to be rather irritating. This is a difficult one, Miyamoto had to show me the solution.

The next two boxes are the Nonsense Box set (1984). This is less of a puzzle than a curiosity. On the first box in the set, any of the six faces can open, but only while facing downwards. This makes it quite impractical to store anything in it, which is the joke. The other box is the opposite, with only the top face opening.

The Small Box Set (2003) is pretty cute. One was particularly clever, though they're all quite nice. Not too difficult to figure out, but fun. The next box, Maze Box (1983), seemed pretty complicated so I didn't spend much time on it. Button Box (1996) was an interesting idea, sort of like a combination lock. It is interesting to think about how it works mechanically, but as a puzzle it is just trial and error.

Skipping Box with a Ribbon II (2003), Box With Key (2003) is a very cool box that I was already familiar with. I actually ended up buying it at the puzzle party later today, so I'll be doing a full entry on it at some point.

The dark box is Cassiopeia (2000), made out of wendge to give it a striking dark appearance which is appropriate. I think this one would be quite difficult to solve unless by chance, unless you knew the solution. The solution is clever and fitting though!

Letter Box D (2001) is the long box with the ribbon, and probably the most visually appealing of the four versions that Kamei has done of this box. This one has a different mechanism than A-C, though the movements are quite similar. I have the Bits and Pieces reproduction of this box, Elegant Kamei Bow Box, which I think has the same mechanism as A-C.

Wood Plane (1983) was another one that I only got partially through: there is a second compartment that I did not discover. It is a nice idea for a puzzle box, since wood planes are used in the construction of boxes. The last box on the table is Book (1983), which is easy to open, but it has an interesting trick. If you know the trick, you can make objects seem to disappear inside the box. Pretty cool!

Phew, I don't know if you're getting tired of reading this, but I'm getting tired of writing and I'm only through the third table out of eight! As you can see, there were a ton of boxes to try and I was having an awesome time. I'll post about the rest in subsequent entries.

July 13, 2010

Kamei Workshop and Hakone Puzzle Hunt

All of today's photos are here.

Our hotel in Hakone was more like a traditional Japanese hotel: the floors were covered in tatami mats and we slept on futons. It was pretty fun, actually! I think if we were to go to Japan again, we would try to find more places like this. We weren't sure if we would like it, so we mainly stayed in Western hotels for the rest of the trip.

At 9:00, I headed over to the Hakone Local Museum for a workshop with Akio Kamei. In the workshop, we would be building his Small Die puzzle box using kits of parts that had been created. The class had about 50 people in it, including other puzzle box craftsmen such as Kagen Schaefer and Perry McDaniel.

The kit was nicely designed so that the box was fairly easy to assemble. There were a few spots where people got stuck, but Iwahara and the other Karakuri Creation Group craftsmen were milling around helping people out. In this photo, Iwahara is watching as Perry McDaniel is finishing up his box.

It was quite interesting being able to see the mechanism of this puzzle: I knew how to solve it, but I didn't know what the innards looked like. In my mind, the mechanism extended along the different sides of the box, but in reality it is mostly all in the bottom of the box, which is much more efficient.

Here's my completed box, it worked great! It sure is easier to make a box when somebody else cuts out all of the pieces for you in advance! I'm really glad I signed up for this workshop, it was fun hearing Kamei explain it.

After the workshop, I headed upstairs to check out the Hakone Local Museum, which had a fairly large exhibit on puzzle boxes, including many boxes by Ninomiya and Kamei.

Incredibly, Ninomiya was actually in the museum while I was there and opened up the display cases to demonstrate some of his work! I tried to get a video of it, but folks were crowding around him so I couldn't get a clear shot. I think somebody else got a better video, so post a link if you've got it!

He solved both of these two large cabinets, each of which had multiple tricks to get it completely open. I would imagine they're fairly tough as puzzles, since on a large cabinet there are plenty of places to hide the sliders. On the other hand, you probably don't need to worry about gravity pins!

After he was done demonstrating the puzzles, I went up and introduced myself in Japanese (one of the few things I can say in Japanese). He seemed quite pleased that I could speak a little bit, but unfortunately I was unable to continue the conversation. Maybe next time!

After spending some time at the the museum, it was time for the Hakone Puzzle Hunt, where we toured around to several shops in Hakone looking for puzzles. This was pretty fun, but most of the puzzles we saw were secret boxes, which have a fairly standard solution sequence (slide a slider, slide a panel, repeat). The number of moves varies, and the solutions do differ somewhat, so I purchased a 21 move secret box so I would have one in my collection.

I am more interested in trick boxes, which are unique. Only one of the shops that we visited had a good selection of these, which was Izumiya. They had a great selection of both traditional puzzle boxes, as well as trick boxes (mainly by the Karakuri Creation Group).

I had already spent quite a bit of my money on the the box sale yesterday, so I didn't feel like spending much more. They did have the display cases open so I got a chance to try out a few boxes that I hadn't seen before. Here's the display case packed full of Karakuri Creation Group boxes:

There was one box in particular that a fellow IPPer Sven Baeck pointed out as being unique. It was a good thing he mentioned it, because it doesn't look much different from the many other boxes we saw. I gave it a try, and sure enough it had a pretty cool mechanism. I would have bought it if it weren't too expensive, but I think it was $300+ which was way too much for me at this point.

They also had a copy of 3 Brothers, the puzzle I had purchased yesterday. I was glad to see that it was at about the same price. I hadn't unwrapped mine and was curious how it worked, so I played around with their copy a bit since it was unpackaged. I was a bit disappointed to find that I didn't like it very much as a puzzle, so I wondered if I could perhaps trade it to somebody tomorrow at the puzzle party for a different box.

I ended up purchasing the last of the Small Box series by the Karakuri group, which was #8. This one looks unlike the other 7 in the series. I look forward to giving it a try!

I also purchased what I thought was the last of the Cube Box series, but unfortunately I ended up purchasing the wrong one, so I have a duplicate of #3 now and am still missing #2. Oh well! It was my favorite of the four boxes in the series anyways.

On the bus, I was sitting with Kagen Schaefer and Markus Götz, and Markus told us about an interesting logic puzzle he heard:
One hundred prisoners will be placed in separate cells, unable to communicate. Each day, a random prisoner is brought into a room with a light. They can either turn the light on or off. At some point, a prisoner needs to declare when all of the other prisoners have been in the room with the light. If he is correct, then they all go free. If he is incorrect, they all die.
In advance, they are allowed to communicate to develop a system that ensures that they will succeed in this task. How could they do it? It could take a quite while.
After quite a bit of thinking, I was able to come up with a solution which ended up being different than the solution Markus had come up with. Here's my solution, don't read it until you've thought about it for a while!
Assign each prisoner a number. A prisoner will only turn on the light when it is his day (e.g. prisoner 52 will only be permitted to turn the light on if he is selected on day 52, 152, 252, etc.). Otherwise, the prisoner will do nothing. This will enable the next prisoner who enters the room to know who was in the room before him, make a note of it to himself, and shut the light off. Of course, this would take a while, but eventually it would work when one prisoner had 'seen' all of the others.
When I got back from the puzzle hunt, I hung out in the design competition room for a little while. I was very excited to see that the Karakuri Group had placed example copies of many of their new puzzles on a table, so I decided to give those a try.

Fruit Pafe (Parfait?) was pretty good, I liked the appearance of it and the solution is fun. One concern is the various little items along the rim of the puzzle, such as the straws. They didn't break while I was there, but I could see that potentially being an issue. I think I like the last move best. This one is of moderate difficulty.

Tako-Yaki is a cute one. The knob on the front turns, and you can flip the tako-yaki with your fingers. However, the weight of them flips them right back over again. This one was pretty cute, I solved it after a few minutes. My solution wasn't particularly graceful, so I wonder if there is a better solution that I did not find. This one was fairly difficult.

After the Rain is a nice little puzzle, though it is very easy. It is nicely crafted and has a very unique appearance compared to other puzzle boxes.

Vaulting Horse was neat, it took me a little while to figure this one out. I ended up discovering an unintended solution to this one. The intended solution is quite a bit better than what I found and is difficult to find. Quite clever, I'm not entirely sure how the mechanism works on this one.

Birdhouse was cute and of moderate difficulty. The appearance isn't quite as striking as the others, though I suppose that is appropriate since it is a birdhouse. I chuckled a bit when I found the solution to this one.

Brush the Tooth was one of my favorites. I think I would also classify it as moderately difficult. The correct solution to this one is nice and is somewhat less simple than you might expect. Unfortunately, there is an alternate solution to this one as well, though I think it is harder to find than the intended solution.

The New Year was pretty tricky. There are two moves, the first of which is easy and the second of which is pretty unintuitive which makes it difficult. This is as difficult or more difficult than Vaulting Horse.

Grand Piano was another one of my favorites. It comes with a little card that has music written on it. I'm not sure how I feel about the card, since it would be easy to lose it. It may have been better if it was laser-etched on a music-holder on the piano or something to make it more permanent. The solution is pretty clever, and has a bit of a twist that you may not expect. The twist makes this one fairly difficult.

I didn't get a picture of it, but Astronomical Telescope was another one that they had on display. The solution to this one is quite neat as well in that it is closely related to a telescope. I don't think I'm giving much away by saying that yes, you do get to look in the telescope. One issue is that putting anything in the compartment could block your view. You can still open the box, but not quite as intended. This one is not super-easy, but fairly easy.

I hope that set of mini-reviews helps you figure out what you might want to buy when they come up for sale. From what I saw during the box sale yesterday, they're all a bit expensive for my taste, so I don't think I'll be purchasing any. I think Grand Piano and Astronomical Telescope will be popular, though.

Also in the room was another copy of the 1536-move King Cubi puzzle box created by Iwahara for Jerry Slocum (see yesterday). I resisted for a while, but eventually I broke down and decided to give it a try. I had a fairly good understanding of the mechanism, since it is based on the quaternary number system. The major thing that slowed me down was that one of the panels was a bit sticky. It needed to be lined up just right or the mechanism would bind, which was a bit of a pain. Also, the panels (and box) are quite heavy, so it was physically tiring to solve.

I worked away for about 30 minutes and was able to get it open! Unlike MMMDXLVI that I wrote about yesterday, it was fairly easy to keep track of what was going on for this one since there was one fewer digit (panel) to keep track of, so I didn't need to take notes.

Man, I was pretty tired by this point, but I continued and was able to get it completely closed again. It was fun to do it to say that I've done it, but not something I'd want to do again anytime soon! Phew!

July 12, 2010

Trip to Hakone

Here are all of the pictures from today.

Today was the day that we made the great migration from Osaka to Hakone. As far as I know, this is the first time that the entire puzzle party has had two different locations in one year: usually they only take a day trip to Hakone. I was really excited because trick boxes are my favorite type of puzzle, and the Karakuri Creation Group, who make awesome trick boxes, are based in Hakone.

The organizers had arranged for buses that took us to the train station where we took a bullet train to Hakone. The train was quite comfortable, but didn't feel as fast as I expected. You can't really feel the speed since the ride is so smooth.

On the train, I had the honor of sitting next to Hidekuni Tamura, a Japanese puzzle craftsman who specializes in interlocking puzzles. He lives in Tokyo and offered Kellian and I some advice on where we should go when we go to Tokyo later. He said we should check out Ginza where there are many expensive shop and Asakasa where there are famous temples.

After that, he said he would like to show me his puzzles. He dug around in his bag, and I expected him to pull out a few puzzles, but instead he pulls out a laptop and boots it up. Didn't expect that from an older gentleman!

He had a ton of pictures of puzzles he has made, including Sway Cube, Rotary Cube, and Six Block Puzzle (which I had seen at Brett's house). He also showed me his very impressive collection of Ninomiya boxes. Beautiful! I wish I could have gotten a copy of the pictures so I could post some here, but I didn't have a laptop handy to make the transfer.

When we arrived at Hakone, we were amazed by how lush and green it was. There were big mountains covered in trees on both sides of the town, and a river flowing through it. It was quite picturesque! This was taken while walking across the bridge to the main hotel. Our hotel is just past the bend in the river on the right.

Next up, was the event I was most looking forward to: the Karakuri and Secret Box Sale! There was word that there were going to be some really great boxes and the order in which you could select your purchase would be determined by lottery. There was quite a system that they had worked out:

  • From 3:00-3:30, we were allowed to walk through the area where they were selling, to figure out which boxes we wanted to try to purchase. When we exited, we were given three tickets that indicated the time at which we were allowed to re-enter the sale area to choose a box.
  • Starting at 3:30, people were allowed into the room in 10 second intervals, indicated by their ticket. Everybody lined up in order of the time that they were given. Upon entering, you could select one box, put your ticket on it, and move it to the "reserved" table (you paid for it at the end).
  • After that was done, the same process started a second time, but the order was reversed. The last person in the blue ticket phase was the first person in the pink ticket phase. In this phase, you could select one more box.
  • Finally, there was one more random phase indicated by white tickets. After that, anybody could re-enter the area to pay for the boxes they reserved and to pick out new boxes.
On the first trip through, I took photos of all of the boxes so I could figure out what I wanted most. There were a lot of good puzzles, but I was most drawn to 3 Brothers and Family by Miyamoto. They were a little expensive, but both were really beautiful looking boxes. When I exited, I picked up my number, and unfortunately I got a pretty crummy one. 

Fortunately, they had a few of each box, so I was able to get 3 Brothers on my first pass through (it was the only one left), and I got Family on my second pass through. On my final pass, I purchased New Secret Box II, which was Akio Kamei's 2010 Puzzle Design Competition entry.

Among some of the other boxes, were a bunch of new designs by the Karakuri group. They were all pretty expensive, and it is hard to tell whether it is worth getting just by the appearance, so I didn't try to get any of those. They looked nice though, particularly the Astronomical Telescope and Grand Piano.

The sale was quite well organized and fair, which prevented the kind of mad dash that you would have seen if you unleashed 100 collectors all at the same time. Good job to the organizers!

Shortly after the puzzle sale, there was the welcome banquet. This was also pretty exciting, because the Karakuri Club had prepared presents for all of the attendees, which I was of course hoping would be a box. Sure enough, it was! I haven't tried it yet, but it looks pretty nifty. I think they said it is based on the binary number system. As we entered, we selected numbers which indicated which gift bag we received. 

Certain bags contained additional gifts in addition to the binary box, including some never-before-seen boxes from the Karakuri Group! Unfortunately, I didn't get one of the special bags, but somebody at my table did, so I got to try out his box. In this photo, Yoshiaki Hirano is working on it.

It was a cylindrical box that sounded like it had a number of sticks in it. There was a small hole, and if you shook the box upside down, a stick would come out. It took us a while to figure this one out, but eventually somebody got it. I didn't find the solution to be entirely satisfactory, since there is a large degree of randomness involved.

Stephen Chin was at my table as well, and, upon hearing that I didn't have it, he gave me two copies that he made of the famous Button Hole Puzzle. I actually hadn't tried this puzzle before, so I was pretty psyched. He even let me try it on his shirt since I didn't have any button holes on mine.

It is a pretty devious puzzle: you can slip it on to somebody's button hole in plain sight, but it is quite a puzzle to remove it! I'm sure I'll have a good time with this one.

The banquet was nice, Kamei gave a speech welcoming everybody and telling us about the Karakuri Group members. Ninomiya, a master puzzle box craftsman, presented Jerry Slocum with a letter of thanks from the Karakuri Group thanking him for all he has done to encourage the growth of puzzle crafts in Hakone.

Jerry was also presented with a very special puzzle box by Hiroshi Iwahara. Similar to Cubi by Kamei which uses the binary system, and Super-Cubi by Iwahara which uses the trinary number system, this box uses the quaternary number system.

What this means is that each panel needs to move four units before the next panel can move one unit. For example, the first panel needs to move four units for the second panel to move one unit, and the second panel needs to move four units before the third panel can move one unit (which also requires the first panel to move 16 units, once for each of the four units moved by the first panel). As you can imagine, the number of moves quickly multiplies! This box requires just over 1000 moves to open!

After the banquet, Wei-Hwa Huang, a very good puzzle solver, solved the box over the course of 20-30 minutes. As you can see from the photo, it is quite a large box which makes it a bit cumbersome to manipulate. On certain moves, gravity moves the panel for you, which is helpful. Wei-Hwa enlisted the help of Jerry to move one of the panels to help speed things up. It was a lot of fun to watch! In the photo, Jerry is holding up the box with Wei-Hwa sitting next to him.

After the banquet, we headed over to the design competition room where I continued to work my way through the puzzles there. I had tried pretty much all of them, so after a while I decided that I wanted to work on MMMDXLVI by Kim Kloubucher (presumably). This puzzle box is based on the trinary number system and requires an absurd 3546 moves to open.

I saw Wei-Hwa open it successfully the day before, but I noticed that only the first few steps of closing it had been done. So I set myself upon returning it to the starting position. I had played around with it before, and gotten pretty confused since there are 7 panels/digits to keep track of. This time, I used my notepad to keep track of which panel was going in which direction, which helped quite a bit.

About an hour or so later, I finally finished it! My hands were aching and my eyes were a bit glazed over, but it was worth it to have (half) conquered this beast. As I was taking this photo, Nick Baxter, the fellow who organizes the design competition asks: "Brian, you didn't just return that to the original position, did you?" to which I proudly replied that I did. It turns out, he wanted to send it back to Kim solved to show him that somebody had done it! Oh well, I thought I was doing a good deed in putting it back like it started!

At this point it was about 11:30, Kellian had gone back to the hotel and I had no idea where the hotel was since I hadn't been there before. I had a map, but the map wasn't very detailed. I wandered into a hotel that was in the general area where mine was, but since I couldn't read the name it was hard to tell.

When I walked in, the lobby was dark and there was nobody at the desk. I rung the bell, and nobody came. I started to panic a bit, thinking about how I could possibly find her in a big hotel (I didn't even know the room number). As I was thinking, I noticed a guy sleeping on a couch in the lobby in the dark. I asked him in this was the Yajikita hotel, and he gestured that it was down the street a little ways.

I walked down the street, but still couldn't find it, so I stuck my head into a bar that was just closing. I asked where the hotel was in Japanese, but I didn't know even how to understand even basic directions, so that was pretty useless. A woman in a Kimono from the bar ended up walking me down the street to my hotel! How nice!

When I got there, they were waiting for me expectantly, since it is a fairly small hotel and they have a 12:00 curfew. Thankfully I arrived at 11:55, otherwise I don't know what I would have done!

July 11, 2010

Osaka Puzzle Party

Here are all the photos from today.

Today was the day of the actual puzzle party, where people buy, sell, and trade puzzles. I had a whole bunch of stuff that I wanted to buy, so I made sure to get there right when the party started. There is sort of a mad dash at the beginning for the most popular puzzles, so you have to be quick to make sure you don't miss anything good.

The first thing I tried to buy was Secret Box, which was Rob Jones' exchange puzzle made by Iwahara of the Karakuri group. It is a beautiful puzzle box! He was in the middle of running around purchasing, so he said he'd hold one for me for when things calmed down.

Next I went by Robert Sandfield's table where I purchased this year's exchange puzzle, called Sandfield's Locked Drawer. Unlike most puzzle boxes, this one opens easily but is tricky to close. I solved the one that Matt got in the exchange yesterday and really enjoyed it.

After that, I went over to Perry McDaniel's table, where he was selling his series of Petite Fours puzzle boxes that are shaped like little cakes. He and his assistant were dressed up like chefs, which was pretty amusing, and the price list was set up like a menu. I purchased the full set of four puzzle from last year plus the new puzzle from this year.

As I mentioned yesterday, Pavel Curtis's puzzle looked interesting: it is a multi-layered puzzle where you need to arrange broken bits of lens in a magnifying glass shaped tray in order to unlock clues to a mystery. Pretty clever! I picked this one up as well.

I had been thinking of purchasing Dual Circle while I was back in the states, but $30 seemed a bit steep for what it was. There was a table that was selling them for half that price here, so I purchased it. It looked like an interesting sequential movement puzzle.

There was a table that was selling the full Karakuri Small Box series, so I purchased the one remaining box I was missing, #6. I also wanted to purchase the one Cube Box that I was missing (they are a set of four), but I forgot which number I was missing. Oh well!

Iwahiro Iwasawa was selling his MMMM puzzle which I wrote about a while ago and enjoyed, so I purchased that as well. He had also created another version called MMM which contains three modified M-shaped pieces rather than four, which was being exchanged by William Strijbos. I purchased one of these as well, hoping it would be as enjoyable as the previous version.

I was quite excited to find a single copy of Wasserhahn (Tap) by the mysterious "Roger" for sale and purchased that on the spot. I hesitated for a moment since it was fairly expensive, but this puzzle is quite hard to come by so I knew I would regret not purchasing it if I didn't. I'm looking forward to playing around with it: this series is quite difficult!

Phew, that's a lot of puzzles and a decent wad of cash. Here's a photo of all my loot, I didn't have time to take individual photos of all the puzzles:

Roughly left to right, top to bottom: "Get a Clue" by Pavel Curtis, MMMM and MMM by Iwahiro, five Petite Fours by Perry McDaniel, Secret Box by Iwahara (Rob Jones' exchange), Karakuri Small Box #6, Sandfield's Locked Drawer (Robert Sandfield's exchange), Sandfield's Unlocked Drawer, Wasserhahn (Tap) by Roger, and Fuji 1707 by Brian Young.

After the puzzle party, there was some down time, so I have been busy getting caught up on my blogging as you can see. (I'm probably not going to have an internet connection in Hakone, so this will be the last update for a while).

At 6:00, Kellian and I headed down to the banquet that marks our final night in Osaka. We sat at a table with all the other puzzlers who frequent RenegadePuzzlers who were in Japan: Matt Dawson, Phil Tomlinson and his son, Jim Strayer and his wife, Jeffrey Aurand, Stephen Chin, and George Bell. It was nice getting to hang out and chat with everybody, and the food was pretty tasty.

The two performances of the evening were good: there was a juggler who did some interesting manipulations that involved rolling balls inside a sphere and inside a tube. When rolled inside the tube, they seemed to defy gravity, which was quite interesting. The second performance used a number of props that folded in various ways and shifted between geometric shapes. It is hard to explain, but quite cool!

Tomorrow, we head over to Hakone, where the Karakuri Creation Group resides. I can hardly wait!
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