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This netsuke is hand carved from hippo ivory with fine details and wonderful colors. Netsuke (pronounced net' skee or net'skae) is a combination of two Japanese words: ne meaning root, and tsuke to fasten. Miniature sculpturing developed as an art form in Japan during the Tokugawa and Meiji periods (1603-1912). Netsuke were carved out of elephant, hippo, boar and occasionally even walrus ivory obtained from Russia. They were also carved out of wood, coral, bone or stone. They were beautiful as well as functional serving as a decorative toggle. Kimonos had no pockets, so men hung their pipes, bags, purses (inro) or tobacco pouches from the kimono's sash (obi). Netsuke have 2 holes because they were threaded on the cords at opposite ends of these hanging objects to keep the cord from slipping out of the sash.
A netsuke's design was according to personal taste, usually an animal, mythical creatures, a god or person, whatever the owner delighted in. The art of netsuke carving is still alive in Japan and China although no elephant ivory netsuke have been allowed into the U.S. since the June 9th 1989 elephant ivory import ban.