Word of the Day : July 20, 2011

netsuke

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noun NETS-kay

Definition

: a small and often intricately carved toggle (as of wood, ivory, or metal) used to fasten a small container to a kimono sash

Did You Know?

Netsuke -- the word in English can be pluralized as either "netsuke" or "netsukes" -- were traditionally part of a man's dress, used to attach a medicine box, pipe, or tobacco pouch to the sash (called an "obi") of a Japanese man's traditional kimono. Because the members of the newly risen merchant class, ranking below the samurai, were not permitted to wear jewelry, netsuke took the place of other personal adornment. With the end of the Tokugawa regime, leading to new customs of dress and the introduction of the cigarette shortly thereafter, netsuke became obsolete, though some were still carved to supply the demand of foreign residents and tourists.


Examples

During the Tokugawa period in Japan, from 1603-1868, netsuke were indispensable items of dress as well as fine works of miniature art.

"After our lunch he'd open the sliding doors of the long vitrine that took up most of one wall of the sitting-room and would get out the netsuke one by one. The hare with the amber eyes. The young boy with the samurai sword and helmet. A tiger, all shoulder and feet, turning around to snarl." -- From Edmund de Waal's 2010 book The Hare with Amber Eyes



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