Have you noticed how people personalise their phone with a little strap? Well, the habit has at least a 300 years history in Japan, with the invention of Sagemono (提物), literary “the hanging stuff”, that people suspended from their obi belt.
In 1998 Hello Kitty released a netsuke that became very popular as a strap. But originally netsuke (根付) had a practical function. Tied at the end of a sagemono’s silk cord it could be pushed up through the obi to securely hold the suspended Sagemono at the waist, in the absence of pockets in the traditional kimono.
Sagemono came in many forms like Kinchaku (巾着money purse), Tabako-ire (煙草入れtobacco pouch), Yatate (writing brush holder), seal purse, and of course the inros (印籠), highly appreciated by collectors. Inrôs consisted of a stack of tiny nested boxes secured by a silk cord.
They are usually made of wood decorated with carvings or lacquer-work, and carried various medicine like myrrh, dragon’s blood resin, ginseng, musk, cinnamon or liquorice. Netsuke at the other end where carved from boxwood, ivory, stag antler, and others light materials. At the end of the 18th century, as sumptuary law where enforced, collecting sagemono, became a rare domain in which Japanese merchants and aristocrats could spend some of their wealth. Nowadays that profusion of richly decorated as well as inventive sagemono and netsuke is a pure delight for collectors all over the world.