The three-dimensional puzzle Rubik’s Cube that was explosively popular in the early 1980s is staging a big comeback.

Sales of the puzzle, which took Japan by storm 25 years ago, are skyrocketing again in part due to growing interest among Japanese in boosting their brain power.

Reflecting the boom, the Japanese National Championship took place Saturday in Tokyo to select those who will represent the nation in the World Championship to be held in Florida on Nov. 5 and 6.

The Rubik’s Cube was created by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Erno Rubik and was marketed in that country in 1979. It first attracted attention the following year at a toy show in the United States. It became an unprecedented hit with sales totaling 300 million units worldwide.

The Rubik’s Cube debuted in Japan in July 1980, and 4 million units were sold in eight months. At that time, long lines of shoppers formed in front of department stores before they opened, and imitations began appearing everywhere. So far, 8.7 million units have been sold in this country.

The goal of the puzzle is to rotate the 27 movable pieces, holding squares in six colors, so that each of the cube’s six faces end up being made up of just one of the colors.

“As both the brain and the fingertips are used in solving the puzzle, it is also used for rehabilitation at nursing facilities,” said Kazuo Usui, an official in charge of marketing at Megahouse Corp., the toy’s sales agent in Tokyo.

“Unlike normal boom goods, the cube has survived without disappearing from shops even after the last boom was over,” added Megahouse executive Kazuhiro Ishimoto. “Its strength is that people ranging in age from elementary school children to those in their 60s can play.”

The rules are simple and easy to learn. But it is difficult to solve. People still enjoy its challenge and about 100,000 cubes had been sold annually as of last year.

But sales have seen a renewed surge this year, and by July 150,000 units had been shipped — five times more than the year before. The firms said it expects annual sales to reach 500,000.

The more challenging Rubik’s Revenge, which has 16 squares per face, and Professor Rubik, which has 25, compared with nine in the original version, also have many fans. The sales strategy of placing the cubes in book stores that high school and university students visit has also proved a success.

According to Megahouse, the world’s fastest speed for finishing the puzzle is 12.11 seconds, achieved by 15-year-old Japanese high school student Shotaro “Macky” Makisumi, who lives California.

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