The Art of …

… Netsuke, a small carved object made to wear with traditional Japanese kimono.

A netsuke is a small sculptural object which has gradually developed in Japan over a period of more than three hundred years. Netsuke(singular and plural) initially served both functional and aesthetic purposes. The traditional form of Japanese dress, the kimono, had no pockets. Women would tuck small personal items into their sleeves, but men suspended their tobacco pouches, pipes, purses, writing implements, and other items of daily use on a silk cord passed behind their obi (sash). These hanging objects are called sagemono. The netsuke was attached to the other end of the cord preventing the cord from slipping through the obi. A sliding bead (ojime) was strung on the cord between the netsuke and the sagemono to allow the opening and closing of the sagemono. Source – World of Netsuke.

19th Century Netsuki, artist unknown. Image from

Netsuke of Mice with Corn, Meiji period (1868-1912). Image from Carter’s Auctions.

19th Century netsuke, artist unknown. Image from Picryl Public Domain Source.

Netsuke, Autumn grasses with praying mantis.Image from Asian Antiques.



  1. says

    There is a huge market in fake antique netsuke. As a friend of mine said “the Japanese make more antique netsuke today than ever before”

  2. fusilier says

    When she was studying in Japan, a couple of decades ago, Daughter #2 bought me a book of photos of contemporary netsuke, from the Crown Prince’s (now Emperor) collection.

    Apparently there’s an annual competition, and the best newcomer is given an unofficial award of “someone who’s fingers we’d like to see broken.”


    James 2:24

    ( Contemporary Netsuke. the H.I.H Prince Takamado collection. 2003. I just checked, there’s no ISBN. Sorry.)

  3. kestrel says

    I love netsuke. But yes, there are a lot of fake ones. I do love them though, even some of the fakes are really nice.

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