Saturday, March 4, 2017

Inside Out

I’m feeling very close to everyone lately, so I’m going to really open up.  You might even say I’m going to turn my insides out to you.  I’ve written a lot about traditional Japanese puzzle boxes, and their typical opening movements.  Traditional Japanese puzzle boxes have sliding panels on the sides which are manipulated in sequence to open the top.  Some boxes also have “kuniki”, or embedded sliding bars within the side panels as well.  Imagine if all of these typical mechanisms were somehow inverted and placed inside, rather than outside, the box…. 

Byways Secret 3 by Hiroshi Iwahara

One of the most prolific and creative modern puzzle box artists from the Karakuri Creation Group, Hiroshi Iwahara, decided he would turn the tradition inside out with his “Byways Secret” box set.  I’ve also written about traditional Japanese marquetry and the technique of creating paper thin veneers by planing blocks of multicolored wood arranged into geometric shapes, known as yosegi.  The technique and tradition from the Hakone region of Japan goes back a thousand years.  The distinctive artwork can be seen covering all manner of wooden hand crafts from Japan, including traditional puzzle boxes.  Not satisfied to stop after merely turning the traditional puzzle box mechanisms inside out, Iwahara (whose name literally translates as “rock field”) decided to include the decorative element as well in his third Byways Box. On the outside, the box appears plain, with no detail at all. But the inside of the box is another story.  Exquisite yosegi work lines the inner chambers.  It is truly, incredibly, inside-out, and marks the culmination of the artist’s ideas about this concept, including a complex series of 21 inside-out steps needed to access the second secret chamber. 

This box is inside-out!

Although they are known as the “byways” boxes, the name is likely imperfectly translated. The Japanese character “ura” translates roughly as “back” – as in “backwards” box, which may be closer to the intended name in Japanese.   Iwahara also suggested an alternate name for the third box in the set, which he called the “wrong side secret”.  However they are named, these unconventional boxes secretly turn tradition inside-out.

The Inside Job by Jared Schubert

I’ve selected an apropos cocktail to toast these clever creations.  The “Inside Job” is a bold bourbon sipper which was created to promote Heaven Hill Brands Larceny Bourbon by Louisville mixologist Jared Schubert.  Playing off the Old Fashioned and the Sazerac classics, the Inside Job adds maraschino (cherry) liqueur to the mix.  As in an Old Fashioned, the bourbon is sweetened with a bit of sugar and in this case, the cherry liqueur lends a new layer of flavor. The touch of absinthe also gives just a hint of extra complexity to the drink, as with a Sazerac.  It’s an elegant, spirit forward and bold cocktail with a nice balance. Enjoy it neat or with a large chunk of ice to chill it – or perhaps we should turn things inside-out?  I’ve inverted the format in homage to the backwards secret box, and placed the cocktail inside the ice – in this case, a hollowed out ice sphere.  I think this is the way the Inside Job was always meant to be served.  Here’s to turning tradition inside-out, flipping the script, and beholding the beauty on the inside.  Cheers!

Something good on the inside

The Inside Job

2 oz bourbon (originally Larceny)
¼ oz maraschino liqueur
½ oz simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash absinthe

Stir together with ice and strain into a favorite glass (or turn things inside out!). Garnish with orange and a brandied cherry.

This set is inside-out!

For more information about Hiroshi Iwahara:

For prior Iwahara puzzles see: