Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


The Tematebako
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 (or treasure chest), which is made by combining six Menko. 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 name Tematebako clearly implies that treasures could be stored inside the cube, but it is not clear whether this just refers to storage within the Menko themselves or in the much larger space in the middle of the cube.

More information about the Tematebako can be found in Kunihiko Kasahara's 'Extreme Origami' ISBN 0-8069-8853-3 published by Sterling in 2002. (Originally published in German in 2001 by Augustus Verlag.)

In Japan

The earliest evidence for the existence of this design comes from a Japanese book by Hayato Ohoka published in 1734 called 'Ranma Zushiki' which contains prints of decorations intended to enhance sliding room dividers. The Tematebako cube is pictured twice, from slightly different angles.


According to information received from Koshiro Hatori diagrams for the Tematebako appear in 'Origami (Part 2)' by Isao Honda, which was published in Japan, in Japanese, in 1932.


Diagrams also appear in Isao Honda's 'World of Origami' (Japan Publications ISBN 0-87040-383-4 published in 1965) where it is called the 'Cubical Box'.


In Western Europe / USA

Diagrams appear in 'Houdini's Paper Magic', which was published by E P Dutton and Company of New York in 1922, unfder the title of 'Japanese Hexagon Puzzle Box'.


Diagrams also 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, under the title 'The Harlequin Stamp Box'. Here, the Menko 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.