Netsuke - Saru Kani Gassen

Netsuke - Saru Kani Gassen


An unusual netsuke in a dark wood with inlays of lacquer and stag antler. The monkey is on his belly, holding a branch of three leaves in one hand. The leaves are inlaid in green and gold lacquer with the large central leaf forming a removable plug for the himotoshi. The monkey is using the leaves to swat away a small crab that climbs up the monkey’s back leg.

The clever carver has taken a piece of wood with an open and distinctive grain and used the grain to accentuate the hairwork that runs along the monkey’s body.

‘The Crab and the Monkey’, also known as ‘Monkey–Crab Battle’ (Saru Kani Gassen) is a Japanese folktale. In the story, a sly monkey kills a crab, and is later killed in revenge by the crab’s offspring, retributive justice being the main theme of the story.

Late 18th century

4.6cm long
3.3cm wide
2.1cm tall

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