Marvel at the intricacy and individuality of netsuke, the essential fashion accessory for Japanese men for over 300 years.

Kimonos, the traditional form of Japanese dress, had no pockets. Women tucked small personal items into their sleeves, but men hung objects such as tobacco and medicine pouches, pipes and writing materials from their sash, and a netsuke was used to prevent the cord from slipping.

This small functional object became an important art form in Japan, elaborately carved in a wide range of materials, and many are believed to have been talismans. In this partnership exhibition, a selection chosen from the 2,300 in the British Museum are displayed alongside netsuke from the MEEA’s own collection. They include examples in wood, ivory and porcelain and the subjects range from a goldfish to a Chinese boy holding a mask for a lion dance.

Netsuke were worn by men of every social class but were a particular mark of wealth and status among merchants. A bespoke male kimono is on show to demonstrate how the outfit would have been worn in the 18th century, and other accessories from the Edo period (1615 – 1868) complement the display. They include several cases for small items, named inro, a sword and smoking accessories.

Museum of East Asian Art

12 Bennett Street, Bath, Somerset, BA1 2QJ

01225 464640


Opening times

Tue – Sat,10am – 5pm Sun, 12 – 5pm

Closed on Monday and Bank Holiday Mondays; Christmas to New Year (check details on the website)

Free entry with National Art Pass

Haven't got your pass yet? Learn more

Exhibitions and events at Museum of East Asian Art

Exhibitions nearby

Back to top