Netsuke were invented out of the necessity of preventing items that were hung on the person and carried, such as inro (a pillbox), yatate (a portable writing set), cigarette cases and pouches from being lost or stolen. People would hang items from their obi (sash) with a string and attach a netsuke to the other end of the string as a fastener. Materials such as animal bones, including ivory and bull horns, ceramic and metals were used to make netsuke and they were finely sculptured by Japanese craftspersons.
Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum
The museum is located in Mibu, which used to be the western end of the capital of Kyoto during the Middle Ages. The area is also known for being home to the Mibu Goshi, who were samurai warriors that became farmers during the Edo period (1603-1867). The museum building is believed to have been built as the residence of the Kanzaki Family, one of the Mibu Goshi, in 1820. The residence of the Kanzaki Family was designated by Kyoto City as a tangible cultural property. We intend to contribute toward the development of culture by preserving this historic architecture and imparting the cultural value to posterity.
Where to purchase: http://www.antique-search.jp/kac/index.html
Also see Netsuke in Culture for more information.