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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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SIgned Japanese Monkey Inro
Oct 30, 1:00 PM EDT
SIgned Japanese Monkey Inro
by Kavanagh Auctions
Est: $20- $15,000
$602 Bids
NANZAN: A FINE TWO-CASE IVORY INRO OF HOTEI WITH EN SUITE KARAKO NETSUKE
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
NANZAN: A FINE TWO-CASE IVORY INRO OF HOTEI WITH EN SUITE KARAKO NETSUKE
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,000- €2,000
€1,0001 Bid
Inro, Japan, 18th/19th century
Nov 04, 10:00 AM CET
Inro, Japan, 18th/19th century
by Historia Auktionshaus
Est: €0- €0
€3900 Bids
A FOUR-CASE SHEATH INRO WITH PHOENIXES, KIRI-MON AND KARAKUSA IN MAKI-E ON A BLACK GROUND
Nov 11, 9:30 AM CET
A FOUR-CASE SHEATH INRO WITH PHOENIXES, KIRI-MON AND KARAKUSA IN MAKI-E ON A BLACK GROUND
by Nagel Auction
Est: €500- €800
€5000 Bids
A FINE FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH LILIES, EX TOMKINSON COLLECTION
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
A FINE FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH LILIES, EX TOMKINSON COLLECTION
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,500- €3,000
€1,5000 Bids
SHIOMI MASAKAGE: A SUPERB FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH DESIGN OF MAY RAIN
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
SHIOMI MASAKAGE: A SUPERB FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH DESIGN OF MAY RAIN
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €2,500- €5,000
€2,4000 Bids
SHIOMI MASANARI: A SUPERB FOUR-CASE INRO WITH HERDBOY AND OX
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
SHIOMI MASANARI: A SUPERB FOUR-CASE INRO WITH HERDBOY AND OX
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €2,500- €5,000
€2,4000 Bids
A FINE GOLD LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO WITH DUCKS
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
A FINE GOLD LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO WITH DUCKS
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,250- €2,500
€1,2000 Bids
TOYOSAI: A FINE SUMI TOGIDASHI-E GOLD LACQUER THREE-CASE INRO WITH CROWS AND MOON
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
TOYOSAI: A FINE SUMI TOGIDASHI-E GOLD LACQUER THREE-CASE INRO WITH CROWS AND MOON
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,000- €2,000
€1,0000 Bids
SHUNSHO KAGEMASA: A FINE FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH DANCING COURTESANS
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
SHUNSHO KAGEMASA: A FINE FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH DANCING COURTESANS
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,250- €2,500
€1,2000 Bids
KOZAN: A GOLD LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO WITH URASHIMA TARO AND OTOHIME
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
KOZAN: A GOLD LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO WITH URASHIMA TARO AND OTOHIME
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,250- €2,500
€1,2000 Bids
TOYO: A SUPERB FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH MONJU BOSATSU AND SHISHI
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
TOYO: A SUPERB FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH MONJU BOSATSU AND SHISHI
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €2,500- €5,000
€2,4000 Bids
KANSHOSAI TOYO: A FINE FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH CRANES
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
KANSHOSAI TOYO: A FINE FOUR-CASE LACQUER INRO WITH CRANES
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,500- €3,000
€1,5000 Bids
A RIMPA STYLE LACQUER THREE-CASE INRO WITH LUNAR HARES
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
A RIMPA STYLE LACQUER THREE-CASE INRO WITH LUNAR HARES
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,000- €2,000
€1,0000 Bids
A RARE GILT-INLAID LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO WITH LUNAR HARES, MOON, AND BENTEN
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
A RARE GILT-INLAID LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO WITH LUNAR HARES, MOON, AND BENTEN
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,250- €2,500
€1,2000 Bids
A RARE TSUISHU-INLAID LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO WITH SHICHIFUKUJIN
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
A RARE TSUISHU-INLAID LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO WITH SHICHIFUKUJIN
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €750- €1,500
€7500 Bids
MORIMITSU: A VERY RARE COCONUT SHELL THREE-CASE SAYA INRO WITH IMMORTALS
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
MORIMITSU: A VERY RARE COCONUT SHELL THREE-CASE SAYA INRO WITH IMMORTALS
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €750- €1,500
€7500 Bids
ZESHIN: A FINE LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO WITH SPARROWS
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
ZESHIN: A FINE LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO WITH SPARROWS
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,500- €3,000
€1,5000 Bids
KOMA KANSAI: AN UNUSUAL GOLD-LACQUER SINGLE-CASE INRO
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
KOMA KANSAI: AN UNUSUAL GOLD-LACQUER SINGLE-CASE INRO
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,000- €2,000
€1,0000 Bids
AN UNUSUAL INLAID LACQUER THREE-CASE INRO DEPICTING A DRAGON AMID CLOUDS
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
AN UNUSUAL INLAID LACQUER THREE-CASE INRO DEPICTING A DRAGON AMID CLOUDS
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,500- €3,000
€1,5000 Bids
JOKASAI: A BLACK LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO WITH MAPLE LEAVES AND BUGAKU ACCOUTREMENTS
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
JOKASAI: A BLACK LACQUER FOUR-CASE INRO WITH MAPLE LEAVES AND BUGAKU ACCOUTREMENTS
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,500- €3,000
€1,5000 Bids
KAJIKAWA: A SUPERB LACQUERED AND INLAID FIVE-CASE INRO WITH SARUMAWASHI
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
KAJIKAWA: A SUPERB LACQUERED AND INLAID FIVE-CASE INRO WITH SARUMAWASHI
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €2,500- €5,000
€2,4000 Bids
KAJIKAWA: A FINE GOLD LACQUER THREE-CASE INRO WITH A FLOWERPOT AND BUTTERFLIES
Oct 29, 1:00 PM CEST
KAJIKAWA: A FINE GOLD LACQUER THREE-CASE INRO WITH A FLOWERPOT AND BUTTERFLIES
by Galerie Zacke Vienna
Est: €1,250- €2,500
€1,2000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Japanese Inro


Galerie Zacke Vienna

Galerie Zacke Vienna

Bonhams

Bonhams

Nagel Auction

Nagel Auction

Designer Homes of Central Florida

Designer Homes of Central Florida