Netsuke and Sagemono

2nd September to 1st Nobember 2017

As the kimono, the traditional Japanese garment, has no pockets, in the 17th century a fashion developed for ‘sagemono’ (‘hanging things’), whose purpose was to hold small personal effects such as medicines, tobacco and pipe, money, name stamp, and ink for the stamp. A cord connected the sagemono with a netsuke made of carved burl or ordinary wood, elephant, whale or walrus ivory, or horn. When the sagemono was hung on the belt, the netsuke served as a counterbalance and kept it in place. The carving of netsuke developed into an art form in its own right. Accordingly, many netsuke bear an artist’s signature. These mini-artworks often represent popular good-luck symbols or an emblem of the zodiac, but erotic motifs are not unknown. The imagination that went into them is appealing, as is their subtle humour, not to mention their superb craftsmanship.


The exhibition presents a selection of netsuke and sagemono from museum and private collections. The lenders include collectors from Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, to whom the museum is extremely grateful. 

We must also thank Trudel Klefisch, who is responsible for the exhibition and catalogue, as well as Adrian Heindrichs from Kunsthaus Lempertz, who has rendered great assistance at all levels. The project has been generously supported by the Cologne auction houses Lempertz and Van Ham.

Sammlung Japan


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Asia in Focus more


One Hundred Aspects of the Moon more

Opening times

Tuesday to Sunday
11am – 5pm
Every first Thursday in the month
11am – 10pm 
Closed Mondays

Museum is closed on December 24th, Christmas Day (25 Dec), New Year's Eve (31 Dec) and New Year's Day (1 Jan). Museum is opend on Easter Monday and Whit Monday.

Admission prices

€ 9.50 / reduced € 5.50

KölnTag on the first Thursday of the month (except public holidays): free admission to the Museum for all Cologne residents.

How to get here

Public transport: Tram routes 1 and 7 and bus route 142, alight at ‘Universitätsstrasse’
There is a car park at the museum


The museum is barrier-free. Disabled toilet available.


Museum für
Ostasiatische Kunst Köln
Universitätsstrasse 100
D 50674 Köln
Ticket office +49.221.221-28617
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