etsuke is a miniature carving attached to the end of a cord hanging from a pouch that holds the kiseru (tobacco pipe) and seal case. It prevented the pouch from sliding out from the kimono obi.
Particularly from the Edo period onwards, these netsuke and tools used for smoking were starting to be more and more detailed in design and style and they began to be regarded as a valuable accessory. To the people of Edo they were an stylish status symbol and people were crazy about wearing them.
A present time comparison would be how we wear fancy wrist watches and drive around in luxurious cars to increase social status.
This trend increased all the more during the Meiji period with enrichment of the practical and ornamental features of Netsuke.
The main reasons for this are 1. After the Meiji restoration. the old shogun system was abolished and with this, regulations against common folk decorating and accessorising were no longer necessary and
2. Swords became prohibited and therefore swordsmiths turned to a new profession in the ornamental decoration of tobacco smoking goods and accessories instead.
There are 2 conditions that contributed to the popularity of Netsuke. The first is the presence of a hole to pass a string or clasp through, and the second is a smooth round shape that would not get in the way.
Also the use of materials such as ivory and tusk, wood and bamboo added to their value and they were intricately carved into human or animal shapes.
They were usually made in 2 parts, the container and lid. Ivory and tusk were often used for the bottom half and metal(shined like a mirror) for the lid. Round netsuke fashioned into the shape of a bun were popular.
Although it was a simple tool or accessory, there were an infinite number of different designs and it added to the depth and richness of the culture.
No matter how much time passes people are still fascinated with the world of Netsuke.
Please come and satisfy your curiosity for this interesting collection.