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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    molded celluloid

  • Credit Line:

    Murray Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The netsuke is a toggle. Japanese men used netsuke to suspend various pouches and containers from their sashes 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 of attaching the cord. In this example, there are a pair of holes (himotoshi) on the bottom of the sandal. Although netsuke were made in a variety of forms, the most widely appreciated is the katabori (shape carving). This is a three-dimensional carving, such as this netsuke.

This netsuke depicts the Japanese legend of Gama Sennin, a Chinese alchemist (Liu Hai) who learnt the power of immortality from a three-legged toad. It is made from an early plastic known as celluloid and has a seam, from where the two halves have been joined, running along the length of the piece. Celluloid was first developed in England around 1850 from a natural plant fibre and is very easy to mold and shape. It began to be manufactured in Japan during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Often utilised as a replacement for ivory, due to its light weight and easily tinted material, celluloid was sometimes used to produce netsuke.

Physical description

Netsuke of Gama Sennin with a toad on his shoulder in molded celluloid

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


19th century (made)


Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques

molded celluloid


Height: 6 cm cm

Descriptive line

Netsuke, Gama Sennin, 19th century, Japan








East Asia Collection

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