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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

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AN UNUSUAL THREE-CASE WOOD INRÔ
Dec 08, 9:30 AM CET
AN UNUSUAL THREE-CASE WOOD INRÔ
by Nagel Auction
Est: €1,000- €1,500
€1,0000 Bids
A SMALL FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH BLOSSOM DECORATION PARTLY INLAID IN METAL
Dec 08, 9:30 AM CET
A SMALL FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH BLOSSOM DECORATION PARTLY INLAID IN METAL
by Nagel Auction
Est: €300- €500
€3000 Bids
A FINE FOUR-CASE INRÔ WITH A LANDSCAPE IN GOLD-LACQUER
Dec 08, 9:30 AM CET
A FINE FOUR-CASE INRÔ WITH A LANDSCAPE IN GOLD-LACQUER
by Nagel Auction
Est: €600- €900
€6000 Bids
Japanese lacquered Inro, 3 inches long. Condition…
Dec 03, 1:00 PM EST
Japanese lacquered Inro, 3 inches long. Condition…
by Blackwood March Auctioneers
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
Inro.
Dec 09, 10:00 AM CET
Inro.
by Dannenberg
Est: €100- €120
€1000 Bids
Japanese 4 Compartment Inro
Dec 03, 11:00 AM EST
Japanese 4 Compartment Inro
by Ancient Objects
Est: $100- $300
$500 Bids
Ɏ KAJIKAWA: A GOLD-LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO DEPICTING EBISU AND DAIKOKU
Dec 02, 1:00 PM CET
Ɏ KAJIKAWA: A GOLD-LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO DEPICTING EBISU AND DAIKOKU
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €1,200- €2,500
€1,2000 Bids
BIHO: A LACQUER TWO-CASE INRO DEPICTING MOMOTARO WITH HIS ANIMAL COMPANIONS AND TREASURE
Dec 02, 1:00 PM CET
BIHO: A LACQUER TWO-CASE INRO DEPICTING MOMOTARO WITH HIS ANIMAL COMPANIONS AND TREASURE
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €1,000- €2,000
€1,0000 Bids
† JOSEN: AN INLAID AND LACQUERED WOOD SINGLE-CASE INRO DEPICTING LUNAR HARES
Dec 02, 1:00 PM CET
† JOSEN: AN INLAID AND LACQUERED WOOD SINGLE-CASE INRO DEPICTING LUNAR HARES
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €500- €1,000
€5000 Bids
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INRO SHOWING WOMEN IN THE BATH
Dec 03, 1:00 PM CET
INRO SHOWING WOMEN IN THE BATH
by Galerie Moenius
Est: CHF100- CHF200
CHF1000 Bids
A four-case inrô. 19th century
Dec 09, 11:00 AM CET
A four-case inrô. 19th century
by Kunsthaus Lempertz KG
Est: €800- €1,200
€6000 Bids
A four-case inrô in the manner of carved red lacquer. 19th century
Dec 09, 11:00 AM CET
A four-case inrô in the manner of carved red lacquer. 19th century
by Kunsthaus Lempertz KG
Est: €1,500- €1,800
€1,1000 Bids
A LACQUERED WOOD TWO-CASE INRO WITH CHRYSANTHEMUMS
Dec 02, 1:00 PM CET
A LACQUERED WOOD TWO-CASE INRO WITH CHRYSANTHEMUMS
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €500- €1,000
€5000 Bids
A four-case inrô. 19th century
Dec 09, 11:00 AM CET
A four-case inrô. 19th century
by Kunsthaus Lempertz KG
Est: €600- €800
€4500 Bids
Japanese lacquer Inro with storks, signed, 3.75 i…
Dec 03, 1:00 PM EST
Japanese lacquer Inro with storks, signed, 3.75 i…
by Blackwood March Auctioneers
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
INRŌ
Dec 07, 3:00 PM CET
INRŌ
by Im Kinsky
Est: €2,000- €4,000
€2,0000 Bids
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TSUIKOKU-INRÔ
Dec 15, 9:00 AM CET
TSUIKOKU-INRÔ
by Schuler Auktionen
Est: CHF400- CHF600
CHF4000 Bids
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GOLDLACK-INRÔ
Dec 15, 9:00 AM CET
GOLDLACK-INRÔ
by Schuler Auktionen
Est: CHF600- CHF800
CHF6000 Bids
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HOLZ-INRÔ
Dec 15, 9:00 AM CET
HOLZ-INRÔ
by Schuler Auktionen
Est: CHF300- CHF500
CHF3000 Bids
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LACK-INRÔ MIT RADEN
Dec 15, 9:00 AM CET
LACK-INRÔ MIT RADEN
by Schuler Auktionen
Est: CHF300- CHF500
CHF3000 Bids
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GOLDLACK-INRÔ
Dec 15, 9:00 AM CET
GOLDLACK-INRÔ
by Schuler Auktionen
Est: CHF300- CHF400
CHF3000 Bids
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CHRYSANTHEMEN-INRÔ
Dec 15, 9:00 AM CET
CHRYSANTHEMEN-INRÔ
by Schuler Auktionen
Est: CHF400- CHF600
CHF4000 Bids
Signed Japanese Monkey Inro
Dec 17, 1:00 PM EST
Signed Japanese Monkey Inro
by Kavanagh Auctions
Est: $20- $15,000
$200 Bids
A FINE FOUR-CASE INRÔ WITH ORCHIDS
Dec 08, 9:30 AM CET
A FINE FOUR-CASE INRÔ WITH ORCHIDS
by Nagel Auction
Est: €700- €1,000
€7000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Japanese Inro


Schuler Auktionen

Schuler Auktionen

Galerie Zacke

Galerie Zacke

Nagel Auction

Nagel Auction

Eldred's

Eldred's