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Japanese Netsuke

Originally used as practical objects, Japanese netsuke has become an outlet for sculptors to express their creativity and a popular form of Japanese art worldwide. First discovered in 17th century Japan, netsuke serve as a solution to the lack of pockets in the Japanese kimono. These small fixtures help to hold multi-compartmented boxes known as "inro," which are used to carry possessions. Netsukes are worn above the obi of the kimono, fastened to a rope or cord which is passed under the obi, and strung onto the inro.

Japanese netsuke can be made from a wide variety of materials including ivory, hardwood, clay or porcelain, metal, and in rare cases, even walnuts or coral. The most common medium for creating is ivory netsuke. However, as obtaining ivory from a live animal is now illegal, production from this medium is extremely restricted. Mammoth ivory still remains in vast quantities throughout Asia, and is still used to carve ivory netsuke today.

Quick Facts 

  • Netsuke and inro became nearly obsolete during the early 20th century due to Western influence on Japanese clothing and the introduction of pockets
  • Antique netsuke is characterized by some wear within the holes of the netsuke figure as well as on the surface where the netsuke would have experienced friction against the clothing
  • A popular collecting category of netsuke is shunga. Shunga, meaning "spring," are sculptural objects have been historically popular among wealthy collectors and given as gifts to newlyweds
  • Check below to find Netsuke for sale. For more information about the origins of Japanese netsuke, view our Netsuke buyer's guide on the Invaluable blog.

Recommended Items at Auction

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7 carved ivory human figurine netsukes
Sep 30, 4:00 PM EDT
7 carved ivory human figurine netsukes
by Horst Auctioneers
Est: $0- $0
$2108 Bids
JAPANESE NETSUKES AND RELATED MATERIAL
Oct 25, 9:00 AM CDT
JAPANESE NETSUKES AND RELATED MATERIAL
by Jackson's International
Est: $70- $150
$803 Bids
19 CARVED NETSUKES C. 1900 -
Oct 25, 9:00 AM CDT
19 CARVED NETSUKES C. 1900 -
by Jackson's International
Est: $100- $150
$1403 Bids
Three Antique Japanese Carved Figural Netsukes
Sep 29, 6:00 PM AEST
Three Antique Japanese Carved Figural Netsukes
by Theodore Bruce
Est: AUD80- AUD120
AUD503 Bids
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KL. SCHÄDEL, BEINSCHNITZEREI, NETSUKE?
Oct 01, 11:00 AM CEST
KL. SCHÄDEL, BEINSCHNITZEREI, NETSUKE?
by Auktionshalle Cuxhaven
Est: €0- €0
€203 Bids
CHINESE AND JAPANESE CARVED NETSUKES 17 PIECES TO
Oct 25, 9:00 AM CDT
CHINESE AND JAPANESE CARVED NETSUKES 17 PIECES TO
by Jackson's International
Est: $70- $150
$802 Bids
EIGHT CARVED NETSUKES C. 1880-1920
Oct 25, 9:00 AM CDT
EIGHT CARVED NETSUKES C. 1880-1920
by Jackson's International
Est: $70- $150
$802 Bids
CHINESE AND JAPANESE CARVED BONE NETSUKES
Oct 25, 9:00 AM CDT
CHINESE AND JAPANESE CARVED BONE NETSUKES
by Jackson's International
Est: $50- $100
$602 Bids
A Japanese Carved Netsuke Depicting a Celestial Dragon
Sep 29, 6:00 PM AEST
A Japanese Carved Netsuke Depicting a Celestial Dragon
by Theodore Bruce
Est: AUD80- AUD120
AUD602 Bids
5 carved human figurine netsukes
Sep 30, 4:00 PM EDT
5 carved human figurine netsukes
by Horst Auctioneers
Est: $0- $0
$301 Bid
4 carved human figurine netsukes
Sep 30, 4:00 PM EDT
4 carved human figurine netsukes
by Horst Auctioneers
Est: $0- $0
$301 Bid
A Pair of Japanese Carved Figural Netsukes
Sep 29, 6:00 PM AEST
A Pair of Japanese Carved Figural Netsukes
by Theodore Bruce
Est: AUD120- AUD180
AUD601 Bid
A WOODEN NETSUKE OF TWO RATS. 2ins long.
Sep 29, 10:30 AM BST
A WOODEN NETSUKE OF TWO RATS. 2ins long.
by John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: £25- £30
£200 Bids
A WOODEN NETSUKE OF A FROG. 2ins
Sep 29, 10:30 AM BST
A WOODEN NETSUKE OF A FROG. 2ins
by John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: £25- £30
£200 Bids
A JAPANESE CARVED WOOD SKULL NETSUKE Signed.
Sep 29, 10:30 AM BST
A JAPANESE CARVED WOOD SKULL NETSUKE Signed.
by John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: £25- £30
£200 Bids
A WOODEN NETSUKE OF A RABBIT. 1.75ins.
Sep 29, 10:30 AM BST
A WOODEN NETSUKE OF A RABBIT. 1.75ins.
by John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: £25- £30
£200 Bids
2 diverse Japanse houten netsukes, benen inro, benen boekje en spekstenen sculptuurtje van kleuter,
Oct 06, 7:00 PM CEST
2 diverse Japanse houten netsukes, benen inro, benen boekje en spekstenen sculptuurtje van kleuter,
by Veilinghuis Van Spengen
Est: €75- €100
€700 Bids
ANTIQUE JAPANESE WOOD MINIATURE NETSUKE PENDANTS
Oct 01, 10:00 AM EDT
ANTIQUE JAPANESE WOOD MINIATURE NETSUKE PENDANTS
by Antique Arena Inc
Est: $100- $150
$500 Bids
ANTIQUE JAPANESE WOOD MINIATURE NETSUKE PENDANTS
Oct 01, 10:00 AM EDT
ANTIQUE JAPANESE WOOD MINIATURE NETSUKE PENDANTS
by Antique Arena Inc
Est: $100- $150
$500 Bids
ANTIQUE JAPANESE WOOD MINIATURE NETSUKE PENDANTS
Oct 01, 10:00 AM EDT
ANTIQUE JAPANESE WOOD MINIATURE NETSUKE PENDANTS
by Antique Arena Inc
Est: $100- $150
$500 Bids
Netsuke
Oct 23, 2:00 PM AEDT
Netsuke
by Arts Of World Auctioneer and Valuer
Est: AUD150- AUD200
AUD800 Bids
A WOODEN NETSUKE OF A CHICKEN. Signed, 2ins long.
Sep 29, 10:30 AM BST
A WOODEN NETSUKE OF A CHICKEN. Signed, 2ins long.
by John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: £25- £30
£200 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Japanese Netsuke


Designer Homes of Central Florida

Designer Homes of Central Florida

John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

Jackson's International

Jackson's International

Lawsons

Lawsons