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Are there different types of netsuke?


Are there different types of netsuke?

Yes, with the most common being the katabori or figural netsukeManju netsuke are named after a popular bean paste confection that came in a round, flat shape. Kagamibuta (literally, “mirror lid”) are a special type of netsuke with a metal lid and a bowl, usually of wood or ivory. Mask netsuke, were carved as miniature versions of the masks used in Noh and Kyogen plays. There are also sashi or long, thin netsuke, that were thrust through the belt, with the sagemono suspended from the end that protrudes from the obi

Types of Netsuke

Katabori Netsuke

Examples of katabori netsuke

kataborinetsuke or “sculpture netsuke” – this is the most common type of netsuke. They are compact three-dimensional figures carved “in the round”, and are generally about one to three inches high.

Anabori Netsuke




anaborinetsuke or “hollowed netsuke” – a subset of katabori which are carved out for a hollow center. Clams are most commonly the motifs for this type of netsuke. Elaborate scenes may comprise the interior.

Manju Netsuke

manjunetsuke or “manju netsuke“- a thick, flat, round netsuke, with carving usually done in relief, sometimes made of two ivory halves. Shaped like a manju, a Japanese confection.

Front and back of a manju netsuke

Ryusa Netsuke

Ryusa netsuke




ryusanetsuke – shaped like a manju, but carved like lace, so that light is transmitted through the item.

Kagamibuta Netsuke

Kagamibuta netsuke







kagamibutanetsuke or “mirror lid netsuke” – shaped like a manju, but with a metal disc serving as lid to a shallow bowl, usually of ivory or sometimes wood. The lid is often highly decorated with a wide variety of metallurgical techniques.

Obi-hasami Sashi Netsuke

Sashi Netsuke







sashinetsuke – an elongated form of katabori, literally “stab” netsuke, similar in length to the sticks and gourds used as improvised netsuke before carved pieces were produced. They are about six inches long.

Obi-hasami – another elongated netsuke with a curved top and bottom. It sits behind the obi with the hooked ends visible above and below the sash.

Mask Netsuke




mennetsuke or “mask netsuke” – the largest category after katabori, these were often imitations of full size NohBugaku or Kyogen masks, and share characteristics in common with both katabori and manju/kagamibuta.

Trick Netsuke








karakurinetsuke or “trick/mechanism netsuke” –

any netsuke that has moving parts or hidden surprises.


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