'Netsuke', Japan

'Netsuke', Japan

'Netsuke'
Japan
19th century
Museum no. 88-1907

The netsuke is a toggle. Japanese men used netsuke to suspend various pouches and containers from their sashes by a silk cord. Netsuke had to be small and not too heavy, yet bulky enough to do the job. They needed to be compact with no sharp protruding edges, yet also strong and hard-wearing. Above all, they had to have the means for attaching a cord. Netsuke were made in a variety of forms, the most widely appreciated being the katabori (shape carving), a three-dimensional carving, such as this one in the form of a group of a mother rat with two baby rats. A netsuke portraying an animal from the East Asian zodiac was particularly associated with the New Year festivities of the appropriate year, but could also be used at any time during that particular year, and again 12 years later in accordance with the cycle.