Loading Spinner

Japanese Inro

Inro is a fashionable element of Japanese culture that stems from the existence of kimonos in historical Japanese society. Japanese kimonos, without pockets, lacked the ability to hold the change or other belongings of the wearer. Inro, compartmented boxes, were developed in reaction to the need to carry medicines, money, seals, and other belongings. Inro are hung from a rope strung under the obi of a kimono and held in place by a netsuke. An ojime bead below the obi, but above the inro, keeps all the compartments in place.

The inro itself consists of many compartments that nest into each other. A cord that is laced into either side of the compartments holds it together. Inro can be made of wood, lacquerware, metal, ivory, or even coral. Though they were originally created for a very utilitarian purpose, artists later used the inro as a surface for creative expression.


Quick Facts

  • It is not unusual to see motifs from paintings, poems, or allegories carved or painted onto the surface of inro. Simple images such as irises among bridges or waves on a shore are part of greater well-known stories and therefore evoke strong feelings of longing, melancholy, and love
  • Inro were primarily worn by Japanese men, unlike the modern-day women's purse
  • Inro were later indicators of wealth. In the 16th century, they were mostly utilitarian, but by the 18th century, inro were mostly decorative and were only worn by samurai and other elite members of society

Recommended Items at Auction

See all items

A CARVED HARDWOOD AND MOTHER-OF-PEARL FLY INRO on a string. 4.5ins.
Mar 06, 10:30 AM GMT
A CARVED HARDWOOD AND MOTHER-OF-PEARL FLY INRO on a string. 4.5ins.
by John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: £100- £150
£900 Bids
A CARVED WOOD CARP INRO. 4.5ins.
Mar 06, 10:30 AM GMT
A CARVED WOOD CARP INRO. 4.5ins.
by John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: £80- £100
£700 Bids
Japan Early 20th Century, Ivory Inro, Meiji Period,
Mar 15, 12:00 PM CET
Japan Early 20th Century, Ivory Inro, Meiji Period,
by Antikauktion Krefeld
Est: €120- €0
€1200 Bids
JAPON - XXe siècle
Mar 09, 2:30 PM CET
JAPON - XXe siècle
by OXIO
Est: €50- €60
€500 Bids
A Japanese Gold Lacquer Five-Case Inro
Mar 27, 10:00 AM CDT
A Japanese Gold Lacquer Five-Case Inro
by Hindman
Est: $800- $1,200
$4000 Bids
bp parity badge
INRO VON YAMADA-JÔKA
Mar 19, 9:00 AM CET
INRO VON YAMADA-JÔKA
by Schuler Auktionen
Est: CHF500- CHF700
CHF5000 Bids
bp parity badge
INRO VON SEIKIGAWA YASUNOBU
Mar 19, 9:00 AM CET
INRO VON SEIKIGAWA YASUNOBU
by Schuler Auktionen
Est: CHF500- CHF700
CHF5000 Bids
INLAID JAPANESE LACQUER INRO
Mar 09, 10:00 AM EST
INLAID JAPANESE LACQUER INRO
by Casco Bay Auctions
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
bp parity badge
INRO
Mar 19, 9:00 AM CET
INRO
by Schuler Auktionen
Est: CHF600- CHF900
CHF6000 Bids
A Japanese Cinnabar Lacquer Four-Case Inro
Mar 27, 10:00 AM CDT
A Japanese Cinnabar Lacquer Four-Case Inro
by Hindman
Est: $600- $800
$3000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Japanese Inro


Schuler Auktionen

Schuler Auktionen

Hindman

Hindman

John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

Antikauktion Krefeld

Antikauktion Krefeld