Netsuke: miniature masterpieces from Japan

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery has a collection of over 200 Japanese netsuke, small carvings mainly used by men to attach items to their belts. Created in the 1700s and 1800s, each netsuke is unique and they depict a huge range of subjects from Japanese popular culture. 75 of these tiny masterpieces from our collection are featured in this exhibition.

With special thanks to our wonderful donors for their support,  without whom this display would not have been possible:

A Japanese ivory netsuke of a Chinese Buddhist lion, seated on a triangular plinth.


A Japanese ivory netsuke of a crouching tiger looking up and tail curled back along its body.

Lucky Animals 

A Japanese ivory netsuke of a Buddhist lion with curly mane holding a smooth white ball in its four paws.

Mythical Creatures 

A Japanese ivory mask netsuke of Hannya the face of a jealous woman who took on the features of a demon including its horns.

Gods and Demons

A Japanese ivory okimono ornament of a lady fallen on her back in alarm at the half-badger half-kettle before her.

Marvellous tales

Japanese ivory netsuke of a standing mother in kimono and headscarf with a baby bundled on back and a boy to her left.

Daily Life

360° videos

3D models

Netsuke carver and curator videos

With special thanks to Amy Raphael, Max Rutherston, Princess Takamado, Ryūshi Komada & Makiko Komada.