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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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A VINTAGE JAPANESE CARVED IVORY NETSUKE
Apr 26, 3:30 PM AEST
A VINTAGE JAPANESE CARVED IVORY NETSUKE
by Lawsons
Est: AUD180- AUD260
AUD503 Bids
A VINTAGE JAPANESE CARVED IVORY NETSUKE BY SHOICHI
Apr 26, 3:30 PM AEST
A VINTAGE JAPANESE CARVED IVORY NETSUKE BY SHOICHI
by Lawsons
Est: AUD200- AUD300
AUD202 Bids
(on 4) JAPANESE NETSUKE, CARVED BOXWOOD CRAB
Apr 21, 11:00 AM EDT
(on 4) JAPANESE NETSUKE, CARVED BOXWOOD CRAB
by CRN Auctions
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
Ɏ MITSUTOSHI: AN AMUSING IVORY NETSUKE OF SHOKI AND ONI
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
Ɏ MITSUTOSHI: AN AMUSING IVORY NETSUKE OF SHOKI AND ONI
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €500- €1,000
€5001 Bid
(3) Japanese Carved Ivory Netsukes Figurines
Apr 27, 10:00 AM EDT
(3) Japanese Carved Ivory Netsukes Figurines
by Atlanta Auction Gallery, ltd
Est: $50- $100
$251 Bid
Brown Hand Carved Netsuke Pendant with Chilong Dragon on Both Sides
Apr 27, 11:00 AM EDT
Brown Hand Carved Netsuke Pendant with Chilong Dragon on Both Sides
by Denise Ryan Auction Co.
Est: $25- $500
$101 Bid
Ɏ SHIBAYAMA MASAYOSHI: A FINE INLAID FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH EN-SUITE NETSUKE
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
Ɏ SHIBAYAMA MASAYOSHI: A FINE INLAID FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH EN-SUITE NETSUKE
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €1,500- €3,000
€1,5001 Bid
A VINTAGE JAPANESE CARVED IVORY RAM NETSUKE
Apr 26, 3:30 PM AEST
A VINTAGE JAPANESE CARVED IVORY RAM NETSUKE
by Lawsons
Est: AUD200- AUD300
AUD201 Bid
A RARE WOOD AND IRON NETSUKE OF A MINIATURE TANEGASHIMA TEPPO (RIFLE)
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
A RARE WOOD AND IRON NETSUKE OF A MINIATURE TANEGASHIMA TEPPO (RIFLE)
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €500- €1,000
€5001 Bid
JAPANESE CARVED BOXWOOD NETSUKE, OCTOPUS
Apr 21, 11:00 AM EDT
JAPANESE CARVED BOXWOOD NETSUKE, OCTOPUS
by CRN Auctions
Est: $200- $300
$1001 Bid
A Carved Hardwood Netsuke of a Rat Banging a Drum. 4.5 cm x 3.3 cm x 2.8 cm, weight 22.6g
Apr 24, 10:00 AM BST
A Carved Hardwood Netsuke of a Rat Banging a Drum. 4.5 cm x 3.3 cm x 2.8 cm, weight 22.6g
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £50- £75
£100 Bids
A Japanese Hardwood Netsuke carved as a Monkey. 6.2 cm x 4.5 cm x 3.6 cm, weight 36.6g
Apr 24, 10:00 AM BST
A Japanese Hardwood Netsuke carved as a Monkey. 6.2 cm x 4.5 cm x 3.6 cm, weight 36.6g
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £50- £75
£40 Bids
A FINE TSUISHU (CARVED RED LACQUER) MANJU NETSUKE WITH PEACH BLOSSOMS
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
A FINE TSUISHU (CARVED RED LACQUER) MANJU NETSUKE WITH PEACH BLOSSOMS
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €800- €1,500
€8000 Bids
A RARE TSUISHU (CARVED RED LACQUER) INGYO (SEAL) NETSUKE OF A SHISHI
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
A RARE TSUISHU (CARVED RED LACQUER) INGYO (SEAL) NETSUKE OF A SHISHI
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €800- €1,500
€8000 Bids
A FINE TSUISHU (CARVED RED LACQUER) MANJU NETSUKE WITH CHRYSANTHEMUMS
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
A FINE TSUISHU (CARVED RED LACQUER) MANJU NETSUKE WITH CHRYSANTHEMUMS
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €800- €1,500
€8000 Bids
A JAPANESE CARVED WOOD FIGURAL NETSUKE. 44 grams. 5.25cm x 3.75 cm.
Apr 25, 10:00 AM BST
A JAPANESE CARVED WOOD FIGURAL NETSUKE. 44 grams. 5.25cm x 3.75 cm.
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £30- £50
£200 Bids
A RARE BRONZE NETSUKE OF A HATCHING TENGU (TENGU NO TOMAGO)
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
A RARE BRONZE NETSUKE OF A HATCHING TENGU (TENGU NO TOMAGO)
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €500- €1,000
€5000 Bids
† AN ANTLER NETSUKE OF A DIVING GIRL (AMA)
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
† AN ANTLER NETSUKE OF A DIVING GIRL (AMA)
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €500- €1,000
€5000 Bids
A RARE DARK WOOD NETSUKE OF A SUMO WRESTLING FROG
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
A RARE DARK WOOD NETSUKE OF A SUMO WRESTLING FROG
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €1,500- €3,000
€1,5000 Bids
YASUTADA: A RARE WOOD NETSUKE OF A RECUMBENT HORSE
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
YASUTADA: A RARE WOOD NETSUKE OF A RECUMBENT HORSE
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €2,000- €4,000
€2,0000 Bids
HOSHUNSAI MASAYUKI: A SUPERB INLAID WOOD NETSUKE OF AN ONI AT SETSUBUN
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
HOSHUNSAI MASAYUKI: A SUPERB INLAID WOOD NETSUKE OF AN ONI AT SETSUBUN
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €2,000- €4,000
€2,0000 Bids
Ɏ MASAKAZU: A LARGE AND IMPRESSIVE OSAKA SCHOOL IVORY NETSUKE OF AN OCTOPUS WITH CLAMS
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
Ɏ MASAKAZU: A LARGE AND IMPRESSIVE OSAKA SCHOOL IVORY NETSUKE OF AN OCTOPUS WITH CLAMS
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €2,000- €4,000
€2,0000 Bids
SOKYU: A FINE SO SCHOOL WOOD NETSUKE OF A MAN CARRYING A LARGE TENGU MASK
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
SOKYU: A FINE SO SCHOOL WOOD NETSUKE OF A MAN CARRYING A LARGE TENGU MASK
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €1,000- €2,000
€1,0000 Bids
A RARE WOOD NETSUKE OF A FROG HUNTING A SPIDER ON A LOTUS POD
May 03, 1:00 PM CEST
A RARE WOOD NETSUKE OF A FROG HUNTING A SPIDER ON A LOTUS POD
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €1,500- €3,000
€1,5000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Japanese Netsuke


Galerie Zacke

Galerie Zacke

Hannam's Auctioneers

Hannam's Auctioneers

CRN Auctions

CRN Auctions

Lawsons

Lawsons