Bolton Library and Museum Services


A netsuke is a finely carved miniature sculpture, which ranges from around two to ten centimeters in height. Netsuke were mainly made in Japan between the 1700s and 1800s.

There are many shapes of netsuke, from button shaped pieces to groups of figures, miniature masks and tiny animals.

Bolton’s collection is made up of 147 pieces of Japanese netsuke, inro and scent bottles. The collection was given to the museum in 1959, in a bequest from Miss Edith Taylor.

In this section you can find out about these fascinating objects.

Manju and Kagamibuta netsuke

Two types of button shaped netsuke

Read more

About netsuke

What are netsuke, how were they worn and a glossary of terms

Read about netsuke

Fox netsuke

Japanese folklore atributes the fox, or kitsune, with cunning and magical powers

View fox netsuke

Boat netsuke

The seven characters on this tiny vessel are all significant characters from Japanese folklore.

View netsuke boat

Ivory ball netsuke

A complex scene depicting creatures considered to be natural enemies in traditional folklore

View ivory ball


Traditional Japanese dress had no pockets so inro were used to carry valuable items.

View inro