Special Exhibition

Past Exhibition

Netsuke and Sagemono -Accessories for Kimono-

April 2, Saturday – July 3, Sunday, 2016

The netsuke is a toggle tied to the end of a cord or chain to suspend a sagemono (lit. hanging object), such as a money pouch, inrō (tiered container) or tobacco pouch, from the obi (sash) of the kimono, the traditional Japanese garment, during the Edo period (17th to mid-19th centuries). Today the sagemono is no longer used in everyday life but, from the Edo to early Shōwa periods (17th to mid-20th centuries), it was one of the man’s fashionable dress accessories through which they were able to vie with one another to display their taste; since the netsuke was a vital component, it was also elaborately designed in a variety of ways. Originally for practical use, netsuke are limited in size, so that they fit into the hand. By contrast, their subject matter is extremely diverse, ranging from Chinese and Japanese legends and folktales, mythological beasts such as shishi (Chinese lions) and dragons, flora and fauna, including the twelve animals of the zodiac, water creatures, insects, toys, miscellaneous items, traditional performance masks, such as gigaku, bugaku and kyōgen. Many netsuke are exquisitely carved or decorated and are, indeed, the quintessential miniature craft.

Since the opening of Japanese ports at the end of the Edo period, these tiny crafts attracted foreigners who were able to visit Japan, and came to be widely collected by Westerners. A considerable amount of netsuke were taken abroad and, as a result, the netsuke has been more highly prized overseas than in its homeland. In recent years, however, the artistry of netsuke once again came to be held in high regard in Japan. It has particularly attracted attention since Heisei 23 (2011) when part of the netsuke collection of HIH Prince Takamado, who played an important role in the field of netsuke, was donated to the Tokyo National Museum and permanently displayed in the Takamado Collection Room in the Museum. Netsuke have also attracted attention as a new genre of art, emerging from a traditional Japanese art form. Most contemporary netsuke artists were originally ivory carvers but artists from other fields, such as jewelers and lacquerers, have emerged into the contemporary netsuke scene and make use of new materials, thereby creating works with a modern feeling.

This exhibition showcases some 370 works of netsuke made in a variety of forms and materials from the Edo period to the present day. Also since netsuke have a close relationship with sagemono, around 70 works, such as money pouches, inrō, and tobacco pouches, will also be on display. We hope that viewers will enjoy the netsuke and sagemono which are imbued with craftsmanship and wit – while some may instill a feeling of awe due to their technical virtuosity, others may bring a smile to your face.

[This exhibition requires a special admission fee.]

General(Adults and university students)
individual 300yen
Group(20 or more)150yen

Children and pupils of primary, juniorhigh, and high schools
individual 100yen
Group(20 or more)50yen

Visitors over 65 years old
individual 150yen
Group(20 or more)100yen

※Please show proof of age when entering.

  • Matsutake-gari. Wood. Gyoku-sou. H:3.5cm

    Matsutake-gari. Wood. Gyoku-sou. H:3.5cm

  • Kirin. Ivory. Unsigned. H:10.8cm

    Kirin. Ivory. Unsigned. H:10.8cm