Japanese crafts: netsuke
A netsuke ('root-fix) was attached to the end of a small decorative container called an inro, stopping the weight of the inro from slipping through the waist sash (obi). The cord was passed round the back of the sash, and the netsuke hooked over the edge.
Netsuke were often carved from ivory or wood, but there areexamples of other materials, such as carved nuts. They were either drilled to take the inro cord or had carved channels incorporated into the design. They were made to be smooth, and not have any prominent protuberances as these would either break off or catch on the kimono. They were made in many shapes and showed a variety of subjects.
Netsuke were designed to delight those who took the time to examine their miniature detail. The figures represented are often magical or mystical beings from myths and legends, such as Raiden, god of wind, thunder and lightning; Daruma, the historical founder of Zen Buddhism who meditated for nine years; and the Shojo, a creature who lives at the bottom of the sea and is fond of drinking sake. Simple depictions of everyday objects carved in exquisite detail, such as a basket of fish, were also produced.
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Netsuke of a basket of fish, Japan
Museum no. A.59-1952
Netsuke of a basket of fish, including an octopus.
Netsuke - Shojo sleeping, Japan
Museum no. A.894-1910
Figure of a sleeping Shojo, a mythical creature with a liking for drinking sake. A kindly creature from Japanese mythology, Shojos live on the bottom of the sea. They have red hair and a pink or red skin and are naked but for a skirt of green seaweed. The figure here is sleeping and leaning forward into its lap, therefore the nakedness is hidden. They brew a medicinal white wine called 'shiroi sake' and other medicines. If a good person drinks the sake, it will taste delicious and heals all ailments. If consumed by a wicked person it will kill them, unless the drinker repents at once.
Netsuke depicting Raiden, Japan
Museum no. A.741-1910
Netsuke depicting Raiden, god of wind, thunder and lightning, amongst clouds with another figure beating a drum. He is usually depicted as a red demon with sharp claws and carrying a large drum..
Netsuke of a daruma, Japan
Museum no. A.23-1919
Netsuke in the shape of a daruma. One of the most popular charms in Japan, representing a Buddhist priest called Bodhidharma (Japanese name, Bodai Daruma), who was born in India in the 5th century. He introduced Zen meditation to China. People who meditate fold their legs under them and hold their arms close to the body - this explains why the doll has no arms or legs. The daruma developed its present form about 200 years ago. one of its best loved features is the shape, which makes it bounce back to an upright position after it is pushed over..
Netsuke of General Gentoku, Japan
Museum no. A.781-1910
Netsuke depicting the Chinese General Gentoku, riding through water on a horse.