Dressed to Impress: netsuke and Japanese men’s fashion

Tour schedule

Oriental Museum, Durham University 
9 December 2016 – 21 May 2017

Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough 
30 May – 29 October 2017

Museum of East Asian Art, Bath 
4 November 2017 – 22 April 2018

Worthing Museum & Art Gallery 
28 April – 25 August 2018

Recommend this exhibition

Dressed to Impress: netsuke and Japanese men’s fashion explores the intricate accessories worn by Japanese men during the Edo period (1615-1868).

Netsuke are a form of Japanese miniature sculpture that was primarily functional, and evolved into an important art form in Japan. They were used by men as toggles to fasten tobacco and medicine pouches to the belts of their kimonos. Men of all classes of society used netsuke, but particularly merchants, who wanted to demonstrate their style and financial status through their fashion accessories.

This exhibition features five netsuke, chosen from over 2,300 netsuke in the British Museum’s collection. The beauty of these objects is their individuality, and is reflected in the variety of the netsuke on show; a Chinese couple playing a flute, a goldfish, a turtle, a sleeping rat, and a Chinese boy holding a lion mask. In addition to the group of netsuke, an inro (a case for holding small objects), a sword, and smoking accessories will also be on display. The exhibition places the netsuke and other objects in context with a bespoke male kimono to demonstrate how they were worn as a complete outfit in the 18th century.

Goldfish netsuke made of boxwood, by Masanao I of Ise. F.1074

Turtle netsuke made of silver, by Kikugawa. HG.291

Sleeping rat netsuke made of ivory, by Masanao of Kyoto. F.782