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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    18th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Isshinasai , Masanao (Maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved wood

  • Credit Line:

    Salting 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.

From the 18th century onwards, many more makers signed their netsukes. This example is signed by Masanao Isshinasai. It is one of a small but distinctive regional group from Yamada, Ise province. The line originated with Masanao I (1815-90), although there were four other Masanaos, as well as various pupils who used the same 'masa' character in their name. Generations of Masanao craftsmen worked almost exclusively in wood, especially boxwood. They made detailed and realistic netsuke, such as this one. The Masanao line produced a wide range of subjects, but they specialised in animals such as this dragon. This netsuke is very compact showing the complete body of a dragon curled around a cloud with neat rows of scales. The eyes of the dragon are covered in gold to suggest the energy, vibrance and animation of the creature.

Physical description

Netsuke in wood of a dragon in clouds, signed by Masanao Isshinasai

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


18th century (made)


Isshinasai , Masanao (Maker)

Materials and Techniques

Carved wood

Marks and inscriptions

Signed by Masanao Isshinasai


Diameter: 4.13 cm

Descriptive line

Netsuke, wood, dragon in clouds, signed by Masanao Isshinasai, 18th century, Japan








East Asia Collection

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