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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1775-1825 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Okatori (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The netsuke is a toggle. Japanese men used netsuke to suspend various pouches and containers from their sash by a silk cord. Netsuke had to be small and not too heavy, yet bulky enough to do the job. They needed to be compact with no sharp protruding edges, yet also strong and hardwearing. Above all, they had to have the means for attaching a cord. Netsuke were made in a variety of forms, the most widely appreciated being the katabori (shape carving), a three-dimensional carving, such as this one in the form of a tiger.

The great popularity of the tiger as a netsuke subject is also connected to its being one of the 12 animals of the East Asian zodiac, which derives from Chinese cosmology. In a recurring 12-year cycle, each animal is assigned to a year in a specific order. The traditional order is rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, cock, dog and boar. A netsuke portraying any of these animals was particularly associated with the New Year festivities of the appropriate year, but could also be used at any time during that particular year, and again 12 years later in accordance with the cycle.

Physical description

This carved and stained ivory netsuke is in the form of a tiger licking its hind leg.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


ca. 1775-1825 (made)


Okatori (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory

Marks and inscriptions



Height: 3 cm

Descriptive line

Netsuke, carved ivory in the form of a tiger, signed Okatori, Japan, 1775-1825.





Subjects depicted





East Asia Collection

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