Netsuke production was most popular during the Edo period in Japan, around 1615-1868. (from Wikipedia)

Image from British Museum (link).   Ivory Netsuke made by Gyokkosai.

Netsuke  are miniature sculptures that were invented in 17th-century Japan to serve a practical function. Traditional Japanese garmentshad no pockets; however, men who wore them needed a place to store their personal belongings, such as pipes, tobacco, money, seals, or medicines.

Their solution was to place such objects in containers hung by cords from the robes’ sashes. The containers may have been pouches or small woven baskets, but the most popular were beautifully crafted boxes (inrō), which were held shut by ojime, which were sliding beads on cords. Whatever the form of the container, the fastener that secured the cord at the top of the sash was a carved, button-like toggle called a netsuke. (adapted from wikipedia)

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