January 2, 2012

2011 Karakuri Club Christmas Presents (Part 1)

Christmas is my favorite time of year, most of all because it is the time of year when the Karakuri Creation Group releases this year's "Christmas Presents".  From January through June, Karakuri Club members can pre-order puzzles from their favorite Karakuri craftsmen, without knowing what the puzzle will be. This makes a nice little surprise each year!

Last year I ordered six (part 1, part 2, part 3), and that seemed like a pretty good number so I did it again this year. This year I got boxes from Hoshino, Iwahara, Kamei, Kawashima, Miyamoto, and Tajima, and was overall quite pleased with all of them! As usual, some are better than others, but none were disappointing. I'll review them in a three-part series over the next few days.

This first box was designed and made by Kyoko Hoshino, who usually incorporates fabric into her work. I added her this year because her work has been fairly interesting, and I like the idea of using different mediums in puzzle boxes. I was particularly impressed by her Wrapping Box puzzle from 2009, which consisted of a puzzle box that was permanently sealed enclosed in a fabric bag.

This year's puzzle is a simple box with a lid. On the lid is a padded fabric panel with a button in the middle. It uses a simple but satisfying mechanism that has been used before, but I particularly liked the way she used it here and incorporated the fabric. It is simple, even non-puzzlers are able to solve it in a few minutes, but there is a nice A-ha! moment that makes it enjoyable. When showing folks my boxes from this year, this is the one that I'll be starting them off with.

Some may not like this one due to its simplicity and the use of a fairly common mechanism, but I liked the execution, and the craftsmanship is very good. I'll definitely be looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next year.

Next up is one of my favorite puzzle box craftsmen, Hiroshi Iwahara. This year's box from Iwahara is quite similar to his Secret Base box from 2007. The appearance is quite nice, with laminated wood pieces on the top, and it has a nice heft to it.

The beginning and ending of the solution are the same as Secret Base, which was a bit disappointing. The one move than makes it different I found to be a bit fiddly, and furthermore is something I generally would discourage folks from doing with my puzzle boxes. As such, when I was showing it to people, I had to keep an eye on them and encourage them where appropriate, because many would not take the correct action for fear of damaging the puzzle.

Since I was familiar with Secret Base, this only took me a minute or two to solve, however folks who haven't seen Secret Base will find it a bit harder, though probably still solve it in under 10 minutes. As always, the craftsmanship is first-rate, but I wasn't thrilled with this one as a puzzle since it is so similar to another puzzle in my collection. Secret Base is an awesome puzzle, so it would be hard to do better with a puzzle along the same lines.


  1. Hi Brian,
    Happy New Year!
    I agree with your assessment of the Iwahara - a little disappointed about the action and its potential for damage. Still, a nice box.

  2. Thanks Rob! Happy New Year to you too!


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