Food Puzzles: Kamei's Spinach Can|
Photo by Melissa Schneider
What is this? See here if you missed the first one.
Even if you don't collect mechanical puzzles, you've probably seen Japanese puzzle boxes. Eye-dazzling, hand-crafted marquetry on the surfaces of these wooden boxes hides panels that shift and slide until you find your way inside.
And then there's Akio Kamei.
Kamei diverged from the path of traditional secret boxes to make karakuri, or trick, boxes that rely on new-for-Japan locks. (Many have existed in Western puzzles for a while.) Magnets, pins, and
centrifugal force rods that fly apart as the box spins are just some of the mechanisms he uses, and he marries them with fine Japanese craftsmanship to produce some of the world's most sought-after mechanical puzzles. His work has inspired a small squadron of other Japanese box makers, the members of the Karakuri Creation Group. Kamei's hand-crafted puzzles aren't cheap—though you can buy passable commercial versions of some of them—but the ones I own are the treasures of my collection.
Among his most famous puzzles are the figural boxes, where the real-world model provides clues to solving the puzzle. Looking at Kamei's "old radio" box? It doesn't seem to be working, so how would you get it going again? Looking at his "dice" puzzle box? What do you do with dice? Think this way, and you'll be on the road to the answer. A few involve food, so you'll see Kamei's name here again.
His spinach can, a cylinder with a marquetry spinach leaf on the "label," follows in the footsteps of his other "real-world" puzzles. Get the spinach can open, and you'll find a deep compartment. As with all my secret boxes, this is where I store the solution that comes with the puzzle. This is one of the few Kameis where you see the mechanism: Usually you can only guess at the locks hiding in the wooden walls, even after you open it.
I like to share puzzles with my friends and dinner guests, but the spinach can rarely emerges from the puzzle drawers. I worry that the fragile mechanism will give out sooner rather than later.