Antiques & Collectibles

(844) 828-7855
P.O. Box 12048, Tempe, AZ 85284


Shop by Category

Netsuke; Katabori wood Mokugyo form. 19th century

SKU: Netsuke; Mokugyo $495.00
Many legends describe the origin of the wooden fish - most take place in China and Korea. One says that a monk went to India to acquire sutras. On his way to India, he found the way blocked by a wide, flooding river. There appeared neither bridge nor boat. Suddenly, a big fish swam up. It offered to carry the monk across the river. The fish told the monk that it wanted to atone for a crime committed when it was a human. The fish made a simple request, that on the monk's way to obtain sutras, to ask the Buddha to guide the fish on a method to attain Bodhisattvahood. The monk agreed to the fish's request and continued his quest for seventeen years. After getting the scriptures, he returned to China via the river, which was flooding again. As the monk worried about how to cross, the fish came back to help. It asked if the monk had made the request to the Buddha. To the monk's dismay, he had forgotten. The fish became furious and splashed the monk, washing him into the river. A passing fisherman saved him from drowning, but unfortunately the sutras had been ruined by the water. The monk went home full of anger. Filled with anger at the fish, he made a wooden effigy of a fish head. When he recalled his adversity, he beat the fish head with a wooden hammer. To his surprise, each time he beat the wooden fish, the fish opened its mouth and vomited a character. He became so happy that, when he had time, he always beat the fish. A few years later, he had got back from the wooden fish's mouth what he had lost to the flood. Netsuke literally means "root for fastening" (ne tsuke). Netsuke are toggles worn by Japanese men of the upper and middle classes. These "roots for fastening" developed from a practical object to a coveted collector's item. The traditional Japanese attire, the robes called aKosodeaand aKimonoado not have pockets. However, the men who wore them needed a place to store their personal belongings and items necessary for every day life. Their solution was to place such objects in containers called asagemonoawhich hung by cords from the robea's sashes or Obi. These would carry anything the user required such as yen, tobacco, seals , pipes or medicines as long as they fit in an approx. 10 cm. x 7 cm. x 1.5 cm. space. The containers may have been pouches or small woven baskets, but the most popular were beautifully crafted boxes called aInro.a The Inro were held shut by aojimesa which were sliding beads on cords. Whatever the form of container, the button-like, toggle fastener that suspended the Inro by a cord looped over the Obi was a aNetsukea The Netsuke prevented the Inro cord from slipping through the Obi and being lost. Netsuke, like the inro or ojime, evolved over time from being strictly utilitarian into objects of great artistic merit and an expression of extraordinary craftsmanship. Netsuke has a long history of reflecting the important aspects of Japanese folklore politics, satire and life. Production was most popular during the Edo period in Japan, around 1615 a'' 1868. Today, the art lives on, and some modern works can command high prices in the U.K., Europe, U.S., Japan and elsewhere.