Cat in a Sack: Netsuke-Button Type Toggle

I am a cat in a sack Karakuri-Netsuke. Karakuri is a type of netsuke that has a moving mechanism. It is also referred to as a trick netsuke. We are special because we have moving parts or surprises inside. It is wonderful being a cat because I can hide in my sack anytime I want or pop out to surprise you. But before we go on, I should explain a little about what a netsuke is and what we do. As little as we are we do serve a purpose. When we were created in the 17th century, our purpose was more utilitarian. Men wore kimonos with no pockets. Therefore, men carried containers for tobacco, money, etc. attached by cords to wide sashes they wore around their waists. Netsukes were used as counterweights, button-like toggles, to secure these cords to the sash. Over time our carvings became more unique and specialized. We were considered miniature sculptures of art and were often given as special commemorative pieces or to celebrate special events. I have the good fortune to have been created from precious Indian elephant ivory. Today, I might say we are the “cat’s meow” for collectors.

I traveled here from Japan in the 20th century and found a home with the founder of the Maridon Museum, Mary Hulton Phillips, in 1983. She cared for me and my many other companion netsukes in her home until she opened the museum in 2004. Today, like so many places, we are temporarily closed. Once we reopen you will find me on a wall with my many companion netsukes in the Rear Gallery of the museum. Please put us on your list to visit.