Netsuke originated in 17th century Japan as a means for men who wore robes known as kimono, which lacked pockets, to hold their belongings. Containers called "sagemono"—pouches, woven baskets, or beautifully crafted boxes called "inro"—were attached to the robes' sashes with cords and fasteners known as netsuke.

These ornaments, often made of ivory or coral, were not merely utilitarian devices, however, as they were often beautifully carved and decorated. In recent years, they have become exceedingly popular among collectors.

The themes depicted on netsuke, only a few inches in size, are endless, though they are often focused on Japanese history and mythology—from depictions of warriors to animals. There are dozens of styles of netsuke, such as kataborinesuke, which is sculptural netsuke, and mennetsuke, which is mask netsuke.

These miniature sculptures are still made today. Fine antique netsuke can be identified by its intricate design and use of pricey materials such as ivory (which was not illegal in the 17th through 19th centuries), jade, or precious stones. Cheaper netsuke is carved out of wood or bone.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

You can get happily lost searching through the 10,000 or so objects on the Asian Art Museum's website. For example,… [read review or visit site]

Jan-Erik Nilsson's extensive reference on antique Chinese porcelain. Jam-packed with information (e.g. on porcelain… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Meiji Netsuke, Mother Hare With Young, Amber Eyes, Signed Masanao, RareSupurb Antique Japanese Netsuke Of Warrior Figure On Table.Antique Japanese Carved Boxwood Large Netsuke Signed Gyokukei, Museum Quality.Antique Japanese Meiji Period Netsuke Okimono Carved Banana Authentic MovementA Master Piece Japanese Okimono Not Netsuke Of Hares W Red Amber Eyes.Supurb Antique Japanese Negaro Lacquered Netsuke With Shoki And Oni.Antique Meiji Japanese Okimono Netsuke - Bijin With PeonySupurb Antique Japanese Manju Netsuke With A Shishi.#0076 Japanese Samurai Meiji Antique Makie Fuefuki-doji Zu Inro, Signed Netsuke5# Old Antique Japanese Carved Netsuke Seated Man Signed4# Old Antique Japanese Carved Netsuke Man On Buffalo6# Old Antique Japanese Carved Netsuke Woman SignedAntique Japanese Netsuke Of Gamma Sennin.Rare Japanese Antique Karakuri Teppo Netsuke W Kamon Miniature Matchlock C184Antique Japanese Netsuke Of Disapointed Rat Catcher Signed Keimin.Antique Japanese Netsuke Of Fukurokuju With Child.Antique Japanese Carved Boxwood Okimono Of Guanyin, Netsuke Quality, Buddhist.Antique Japanese Netsuke Okimono Pair Of Painted Birds Mother Of Pearl Eyes MejiSuperb Antique Japanese Netsuke Of An Eagle. Meiji Era. SignedAntique Japanese Netsuke Of A Seated Man Writing Signed.Antique Meji Japanese Signed Netsuke Okimono Seated Boy Smiling Child FlowerAntique Japanese Carved Netsuke Man And BoyCarved Netsuke Fisherman Net Original Carved Statue 19th C?Superb Vintage Japanese Kiseruzutsu For Kiseru, Netsuke Pipe CaseF717: Chinese Engraved White Stone Haku-gyoku Ware Personal Ornaments Or NetsukeFine Antique Japanese Boxwood Netsuke Karako With DrumAntique Bone Carved Japanese Man Netsuke Antique Japanese Carved Netsuke Man On A Leaf SignedF714: Chinese Engraved Green Stone Gyoku Ware Personal Ornaments Or Netsuke. 3Cert'd Superb Fine Rare Natural A Icy Jadeite Jade Big Dragon Fish Netsuke Nr Stunning Hotei Netsuke Buddha (1,158 Grams!) Hand Carved Okimono Value $3,400.00Two Good Antique Japanese Carved Bone Netsuke FiguresA Superb Antique Japanese Netsuke Of A Seated Kirin. Meiji Era, SignedAntique Bovine Bone Piece Carving Netsuke Japanese Chinese Old InlayAntique Meiji Japanese Wood Carved Netsuke Playful Monkey Signed GyokusekiAntique Japanese Carved Netsuke Hotei Signed GyokubunF716: Chinese Engraved Green Stone Gyoku Ware Personal Ornaments Or Netsuke. 5Excellent Hand Carved Netsuke Antique Okimono Rare!3 Chinese Hand Carved Person Whit Bag Bone NetsukeJapanese Horse Netsuke Signed Well Detailed Maybe Boxwood Hand Carved Wow F715: Chinese Engraved Green Stone Gyoku Ware Personal Ornaments Or Netsuke. 4Japanese Wood Dog Netsuke., Signed.......................ref.7685Japanese Netsuke Slide Ojime For Inro 19th C. Edo Staghorn Goat Ram Bead SignedPretty Wood Stand /shelf For Netsuke / Snuff Bottles Or Curios Noble Chinese Cloisonne Hand Carved Hummingbird Collect Statue Pendant NetsukeNetsuke AntiqueF713: Chinese Engraved Green Stone Gyoku Ware Personal Ornaments Or Netsuke. 2Antique Old Chinese Nephrite Celadon Jade Floral Pendant Plaque Netsuke 18/19thcLovely Chinese Old Cloisonne Handmade Carving Bee Collect Statue Pendant NetsukeMonkey And Octopus NetsukeJapanese Erotic Lady Netsuke Signed Well Detailed Maybe Boxwood Hand Carved Wow Two Chinese Hand Carved Elder Man Bone NetsukeJapanese Bovine Water Buffalo Bone Carved Carving Netsuke Funny Face DarumaJapanese Netsuke - Two Boys Astride A Horse - SignedVintage Carved Signed Erotic Netsuke Statue Figurine Couple Japanese EroticaWonderful Tibet Silver Big Skull Death's Head Netsuke SculptureThree Chinese Hand Carved Boy Bone NetsukeDragonball, Dragonball Z Netsuke Figure Bland New 7 Items In 1 Set, From Japan Bone Carving Statue Japan Netsuke Collectible Old Hand Delicate Chinese Old Cloisonne Hand Carved Hummingbird Statue Pendant Netsuke