Many people have enjoyed collecting Netsuke unique pieces of art. Most are initially captivated by the fine features and exceptional sculpting displayed in these little creatures. Some people appreciate “trick” carvings, like the peach, which contains a concealed compartment that unscrews to reveal a little chain carved out of a single piece of ivory. Some netsuke include movable parts, such as the jaw moving on the skull.

However, most collectors are finally drawn to the netsuke’s pure artistic beauty. Signed netsuke account for less than half of all surviving pieces, and the majority of early works are unsigned. Only around 1920 did netsuke carvers begin to construct netsuke as art items rather than utility products, and to sign their work. Neither age nor signature are useful criterion for purchasing one, as live masters’ netsuke command higher prices than the bulk of ancient works, and many fraudulent signatures have been added to substandard pieces.

If you intend to collect only netsuke made by living master carvers, the basic rule about signatures changes. Most contemporary artists, including netsuke carvers, sign their pieces. As a result, the vendor should be able to supply you with the artist’s name, an estimated or exact year of production, and any other information that may be of interest to you.

The rarity of the material from which they are carved may influence the price, although an innovative netsuke carved from wood will be more valuable than an ungainly item carved from ivory. Prices range from a few dollars to more than a hundred thousand dollars. Some people collect specific types of netsuke, such as sashi (long narrow ones), manju (flat disc-shaped ones), or materials like metal, ivory, or ceramics. Others gather by subject.

Netsuke, The rarity of the material from which they are carved may influence the price
There is a collector who specializes in any area of Japanese culture, including masks, occupations

There is a collector who specializes in any area of Japanese culture, including masks, occupations, nature, monkeys, and so on. Another method of collection is through a school of carvers. Some people exclusively collect netsuke that have been passed down through generations to develop the lovely patina that only comes with wear. Others enjoy the crispness of a squeaky-clean carving straight from the current carver’s hands. If you wish to decide which netsuke to gather on your own, I recommend using an approach that has worked for me.

Examine all of the materials accessible. Choose your top few favorite pieces. Examine each one carefully. Then leave. Go home. Go to lunch or take a walk. As soon as you go out the door, you’ll start thinking about one of those treasures, even worrying that someone will buy it before you return. If you don’t love it enough to be concerned, keep walking; the bug hasn’t bitten you hard yet. You may yet be able to escape! When you return, you will be able to confidently determine which netsuke is best for you.

The sparrow represents friendship and hard work. This netsuke depicts a popular children’s toy with the sparrow puffed up and its wings spread. One folktale speaks of a guy who wanted to give his master a particular gift, so he sent to China for a quantity of sparrows. When one of them died on the way home, a Japanese sparrow was added. The exquisite gift pleased the overlord, but he puzzled why there was only one Japanese sparrow among the Chinese birds.

His vassal responded: “Because they were all foreigners, they required an interpreter.”

Japanese popular stories typically include a moral and frequently begin with some dreadful event occurring to one of the main characters. Despite being treated unfairly by an opponent, they remain generous to their allies. One such story is about the cut-tongue sparrow.
An elderly man had a pet sparrow that he took excellent care of; nevertheless, one day it went missing.

If electrons can exist in parallel states, why can’t the universe?

When he approached his neighbor about the sparrow, she explained that it had hopped into her yard and eaten some of the paste she was planning to use to starch her linen. So she seized it and, to teach it a lesson, severed its mouth. The sparrow fluttered away.

The old man was upset, so he went into the woods to seek for his pet. Finally, he located the pet sparrow. The sparrow invited the elderly man to his own home. Following a wonderful visit, the sparrow presented the old man with a choice of two gifts, one huge and one tiny. The old man chose the smaller one since it was easier to transport.

When he returned home, he opened the small box to discover that it was loaded with an endless supply of silver, gold, and jewelry. When the nasty neighbor saw this, he quickly walked out into the forest to look for the sparrow. When they met, the sparrow invited her into his home. When she was about to leave, he offered her a similar selection of two gifts.

She chose the large present, despite her limited strength. She attempted to bring it home, but she felt exhausted and had to set it down to rest. When she eagerly peeked into the basket, hordes of goblins and devils rushed out and attacked her. The old man ultimately adopted a son, and they lived happily for the rest of their lives.


Tengu are mountain and forest deities with magical might who zealously safeguard the isolation and calm of their surroundings. Hunters, woodcutters, and other mountain dwellers hold high regard for the tengu and their power. Tengu are in two varieties: little, winged, crow-beaked and tall, humanlike with an extended nose. The humanlike ones are safeguarded by the crow tengu, as depicted in this netsuke, which are tiny beings with human-like bodies but two wings that allow them to fly.

Their nails resemble tiger claws, and their eyes are spherical, emitting light like a lightning bolt. They feature bird-like beaks instead of mouths and are sometimes seen carrying clubs. The crow tengu is half bird, half human. Kintaro, according to folklore, spent his time raiding tengu nests. He developed immense power by wrestling with all of the mountain beasts, even the tengu.

Kintaro holding a large axe is frequently depicted on children’s kites to inspire them to develop great power in their bodies.
Tengu occasionally take the form of mountain priests (yamabushi). They then congregate in mountain clearings, consume special mushrooms, and continue throughout the night.