Netsuke, 17th century, Japan - Public domain photo of museum object
A statue of a laughing monk sitting on the ground, Japan, free to use, no copyright restrictions image - Picryl description
Traditionally, Japanese clothing – first the kosode and its later evolution, the kimono – did not have pockets. Though the sleeves of the kimono could be used to store small items, the men who wore kimono needed a larger and stronger container in which to store personal belongings, such as pipes, tobacco, money and seals, resulting in the development of containers known as sagemono, which were hung by cords from the robes' sashes (obi). These containers may have been pouches or small woven baskets, but the most popular were crafted boxes (inrō) held shut by ojime, sliding beads on cords. Whatever the form of the container, the fastener which secured the cord at the top of the sash was a carved, button-like toggle called a netsuke. Netsuke, like inrō and ojime, evolved over time from being strictly utilitarian into objects of great artistic merit and an expression of extraordinary craftsmanship. Netsuke production was most popular during the Edo period (1603–1867). Netsuke and inrō declined as Japanese clothes were gradually westernized from the Meiji period (1868–1912). Because of their popularity amongst Western collectors at the time, some of the greatest collections are now found outside of Japan. Today, the production of netsuke continues, and some modern netsuke can command high prices in the UK, Europe, the USA, Japan and elsewhere. Inexpensive yet faithful reproductions are available in museums and souvenir shops.