Unique to Japan are small functional sculptures called Netsuke. A netsuke was used to secure the cords of a pouch back in the days when men did not carry wallets. Below is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on netsuke. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article. Please do, as there are some pictures there of many more netsuke.
As today is the Chinese New Year, I added a picture of a rat netsuke to accompany the article.
Japanese artists starting in the 17th century cleverly invented the miniature sculptures known as netsuke (Japanese:根付) to serve a very practical function. (The two Japanese characters ne+tsuke mean "root" and "to attach".) Traditional Japanese garments - robes called kosode and kimono - had no pockets. Men who wore them needed a place to keep personal belongings such as pipes, tobacco, money, seals, or medicines.
The elegant solution was to place such objects in containers (called sagemono) hung by cords from the robes' sash (obi). The containers might take the form of a pouch or a small woven basket, but the most popular were beautifully crafted boxes (inro), which were held shut by ojime, sliding beads on cords. Whatever the form of the container, the fastener that secured its cord at the top of the sash was a carved, button-like toggle called a netsuke.
Such objects, often of great artistic merit, have a long history reflecting important aspects of Japanese folklore and life. Netsuke production was most popular during the Edo period in Japan, around 1615-1868. Today, the art lives on and carvers, a few of whose modern works command high prices (US$10,000 or more), are in the UK, Europe, the USA, Japan and elsewhere. Prices at auctions in the USA for collectible netsuke typically range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Inexpensive molded, faithful reproductions are available in museum shops and elsewhere for $30 or less.