If you were watching TV series Downton Abbey, you might remember that Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham (played by Maggy Smith) had a little statue on her desk and she was calling it a “netsuke.”
Netsuke became very popular among collectors in Europe and in the US. So popular that now there exists an organization called International Netsuke Society with members in 31 different countries!
So what is exactly Netsuke and how did people use it? I didn’t know at all, until I saw this video created by NPR.
Since men’s kimono didn’t have any pocket, men used to carry around a container. A netsuke was used to anchor the container to the sash (“obi” in Japanese) on their waist. Some craftsmen in Japan turned this little functional tool to a miniature art object.
And until I saw this NPR article, I never knew that there still exists a netsuke craftsman in Japan. Salute to Mr. Ryushi Komada for keeping this art form alive!