Collection Spotlight: Yoshimoto Cube

The Yoshimoto cube is a little puzzle is really cool and surprisingly hard to come by.

Yoshimoto Cube 1

The Yoshimoto Cube is a toy that was first invented in 1971, by a Japanese mathematician named Naoki Yoshimoto. He was trying to find different ways to split a cube equally in half and ended up discovering the arrangement.

The cube was first introduced in 1972 at an exhibition, and then later developed for commercial production. In 1982, the Museum of Modern Art included it in the permanent collection.

Yoshimoto Cube 2

A total of three cubes exist, labelled as “No. 1”, “No. 2”, and “No. 3”. All the cubes are made of Polypropylene. The silver and gold on the cubes appear to be thick semi-metallic stickers (I did not try to pull it apart!), glued on with a heavy-duty glue. They cut each of the cubes in a special way and the stickers allow for the pieces to stay together while you twist and turn the cubes.

The three cubes are as follows:

Cube Number Component Shapes Drawing
1 2x Stellated Rhombic Dodecahedron Yoshimoto Cube Part 1
2 2x Parallelepiped Yoshimoto Cube Part 2
3 1x Rhombic Dodecahedron Yoshimoto Cube Part 3

I found Cube No. 3 to be the most interesting as it was not only the hardest one to “solve” but also exhibited some interesting properties. Cube No. 3 was the only cube that was a single piece. You had to twist and turn this piece to form the Rhombic Dodecahedron. Another interesting property of the cube is that it is a kaleidocycle, which is a ring of an even number of tetrahedra. You can twist the ring, and during each step, it would show different sides of each of the tetrahedra that form it.

Yoshimoto Cube 3

The Yoshimoto Cube No. 1 is very easily available. However, it is very difficult to find cubes No. 2 and No. 3. It seems that the manufacturers have stopped making them. This is probably because they are very expensive to make, and have almost no demand. They came in a foam box with some leaflets (which I assume show you how to fold and unfold the cubes) which I have not opened, because I didn’t want them to lose their creases.

This set of cubes costed me around $300, but such rare items are a great addition to my collection. I really wish I could play with Cube No. 3 some more, but I’m really afraid of damaging it, because these cubes, despite their strong materials of construction, are very fragile. I’ll probably end up making one out of paper just to see what happens.

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