What are Netsuke

Netsuke are small sculptured and sometimes carved items from Japan. They were used by men of the warrior class to hang on their kimonos. Since these kimonos didn’t have any pockets they had to find a solution. Nevertheless their sleeves were out of the question to be used as pocket. Instead they used inro and other vessels to function for carrying small items. These inro had cords to keep the kimono in place and at the end they used these netsuke. They basically were functioning as a counterweight, so the kimono would stay closed.

Just a small explanation. An inro is a small traditional Japanese box to hold small items.


Development of the Netsuke

As this art form developed more and more so did the netsuke. They used to be much simpler formed. The items we see now often on auctions and such were developed during the 18th century. With this development did also the forms in which they were formed.

You can see them in mythological figures like the oni we have on sale right now. Also the zodiac was used, kabuki, masks and many others. There are even which designs are quite erotic in nature.

Later in the 19th century they would become more “normal”. The designs would become more of a every day life. Since it would become more of a fashion item it would also follow more the trends of that time in art.

As fashion changed over time in Japan so did the use of netsuke. They gradually disappeared from the traditional fashion scene. Since people dressed more and more like did in the west.

As Japan began to open up more to the world people who visited Japan would start to collect them. This didn’t stop the craftsman in Japan. In contrary they continued to make them. Therefor you see quit a few of netsuke without any holes. They are more made for ornament sake then for the traditional costume.

Types of Netsuke


This is the one you see the most. They are carved.


These have a hollow center.


They are often thick, flat and round. They have carving on top.

These are carved in such elaborate way that they resemble lace.


Metal disc on a shallow box. This lid would be decorated.

Obi-hasami Sashi

Has a length of sticks and gourds


another elongated netsuke with a curved top and bottom.


The name tells it all. This are small masks.


Any which has moving or hidden parts.

Materials used

Netsuke are often but not always made in ivory. In addition to ivory many other materials were used. Like wood, metal, clay and lacquer. Artist who would work in lacquer would besides netsuke often make inro as well.

You can find netsuke we sell in our shop . At the moment we have wooden as well as ivory netsuke.  However, more will be added soon. This collection is shrinking and growing of course over time.

Here are some examples of notable collections over here.

Japenese carved wood netsuke of Chinese boy Japanese ivory Okimono of a FukurokujuJapanese Ivory Netsuke of stylised Oni