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    

Japanese Antique 19th Cent Meiji Period Cow Bone Monkey Fighting Oni NetsukeJapanese Antique 19th Cent Late Edo To Early Meiji Period Rare Cow Bone NetsukeOriginal Antique Japanese Old Netsuke Okimono Wood #10Rare Beautiful Japanese Antique Bone Netsuke & Makie Inro No ReserveFine Antique 19thc Japanese Edo / Meiji Carved Wooden Netsuke - MonkeyJapanese Antique Meiji Period Small Netsuke Okimono Of Man At His WorkA Wonderful Japanese 19th Century Meiji Period Carved Wooden Netsuke Of A MonkeyFine Old Japanese Carved Wooden Mouse Tea Scoop NetsukeFine Old Japanese Carved Cherry Amber Figural Frog With Ball NetsukeOld Cow Bone Netsuke Carved Dog Canine.A Carved Japanese Old Wooden Small Echigojishi Ornament / Netsuke JapanKobari Masao Japanese Old Antiques Bone Netsuke Owl / JapanAntique Meiji Japanese Cow Bone Netsuke,ratsHand Carved Oriental Hare NetsukeRare Edo Meiji Japanese Genuine Antique Inro & Netsuke "mushroom" -098Genuine Early 19th Century Netsuke - Crouching Man & Rice SackJapanese Antique Meiji Period Netsuke Figure Of A Court Official ?A Carved Japanese Old Antiques Rabbit Netsuke Wooden JapanJapanese Antiques Bone & Brass Kagamibuta Netsuke W/ Glass Ball Ojime JapanRare Beautiful Japanese Antique Bone Netsuke & Makie Inro No ReserveJapanese Cow Bone Netsuke Signed Interesting Old Oriental Netski - Netsuke - Unusual Animal - Carved Bone - RareJapanese Okimono - Netsuke Mask Antique #3Erotic Erotica Shunga Japanese Oriental Bone Netsuke Man Woman Figurine SignedAntique Japanese Edo Cow Bone Netsuke,father And SonCert'd Rare Natural Type A Icy Dragon Beast Chinese Jewelry Netsuke Nr- Free DhlCertified Gorgeous Natural Type A Vvivid Chinese钟馗 Jewelry Netsuke Nr- Free DhlVtg Netsuke Rare Antique Spinning Rotating Two Face Long Hair Demon ? SignedNetsuke Snake, Mushrooms, Bamboo Handmade From AntlerJapanese Netsuke, Antique, Hand Carved God Of Good Fortune Bovine BoneFine Rare Japanese Antique Carved Bone Tonkotsu Netsuke & Ojime - Tobacco BoxOld Chinese Nephrite Celadon Jade Statue/netsuke/toggle Double Gooses W/ruyiOld Chinese Nephrite Celadon Jade Pendant/netsuke/toggle~archaistic StyleOld Chinese Celadon Nephrite Lotus Root Statue/pendant/netsuke~top QualityJapanese Cow Bone Netsuke Meiji Period Woman's Head Possibly Converted ? Japanese Netsuke.dragon.Japanese Hand Carved Bone Netsuke/okimono, Man With Monkey Refined Wooden Boxwood Netsuke Cute Owl Figurine Antique Japanese Carved Wood Netsuke 19thNetsuke Shisa Handmade From WoodJapanese Inro(印籠) Type Nest Of Boxes / Netsuke(根付) / Ojime(緒締) / LacqueringVintage Beautiful Japanese Netsuke 3.25" Hand Carved Cat W/ Rotating 2nd Cat Chinese Hand Carved Boxwood Netsuke RabbitNetsukeOld Chinese Nephrite Celadon Jade Three Monkeys Pendant/statue/netsuke 18/19thcOld Chinese Nephrite Celadon Jade Carve Statue/netsuke Auspicious Beast 18/19thcNetsuke, Hand Carved Signed, Rabbit Or Bunny, Very Detailed Carving, Ex. Cond. Very Old Japanese Kagamibuta Netsuke With Copper Plate And Bowl - Edo PeriodOld Chinese Sterling Silver Made Pendant/netsuke~double Fishes~symbol Of Wealth3pcs Hard Wood Stand For Netsuke ,snuff Bottle, Carving Display.franklin Mint Curio Cabinet Collection Netsuke Cat Figurine 1988Orang-utan NetsukeRussian? Netsuke No. 7Russian? Netsuke No. 8Chinese Handwork Carving Lovely Tortoise Old Boxwood NetsukeRefined Wooden Boxwood Netsuke Cute Owl FigurineJapanese Handwork Boxwood Netsuke Carving RoosterJapanese Handwork Bone Netsuke Carving GodOld Chinese Nephrite Celadon Jade Carved Statue/pendant/netsuke Hornless DragonAntique 19th C. Edo Meiji Deeply Carved Japanese Netsuke ~ Rare Seal Form