This book will delight collectors, craft devotees and lovers of things Japanese as there are few publications on the subject of Manju, which is a particular type of netsuke. Netsuke were toggles holding hanging things suspended from the waist sash - medicine boxes, purses, tobacco pouches, or pipes. Manju netsuke began as round objects - the name coming from a circular cake or bun with that name. However, they were also crafted into ovals and squares or other shapes. Masters, who kept their techniques secret, carved them of wood, ivory, metal, lacquer or pressed horn. Often two parts fit together with the lower half having a central hold for a cord to pass through to an eyelet in the upper.
Most of these manju were acquired by the Ashmolean from the late Dr. Monica Barnett, and the publication provides a thorough presentation with insights into their history, uses, techniques and motifs with chapters on the themes of heroes and folktales, religious subjects, daily life, literature, theater, warriors, animals, nature and patterns. The photographs reveal the mastery of the carvers who were able to work so much detailed imagery into such small surfaces.