The Public Paperfolding History Project

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The 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.

In Japan


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.

According to Kunihiko Kasahara, writing in 'Extreme Origami', published by Sterling in 2002 (but originally published in German in 2001 by Augustus Verlag), this cube was identified as a Tematebako by Yasuo Koyanagi and its modular method then reconstructed by Masao Okamura. There is nothing in the print itself to identify the modular method by which the cube would have been made.

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



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.



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 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'.


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 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.