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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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Japanese 6-Section Lacquer Inro
Jun 29, 9:00 AM EDT
Japanese 6-Section Lacquer Inro
by Ivy Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid
LACQUER INRO WITH HORSES, JAPAN EDO
Jun 24, 10:00 AM CEST
LACQUER INRO WITH HORSES, JAPAN EDO
by Historia Auctionata
Est: €0- €0
€1000 Bids
A JAPANESE CICADA FLY INRO. 79.7 grams. 11.5 cm x 4.5 cm.
Jun 19, 10:00 AM BST
A JAPANESE CICADA FLY INRO. 79.7 grams. 11.5 cm x 4.5 cm.
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £80- £120
£600 Bids
A FOUR COMPARTMENTS LACQUERED AND GILT WOOD INRŌ
Jun 27, 11:00 AM CEST
A FOUR COMPARTMENTS LACQUERED AND GILT WOOD INRŌ
by Bertolami Fine Art s.r.l.
Est: €2,000- €3,000
€1,5000 Bids
A FOUR COMPARTMENTS CARVED LACQUER INRŌ
Jun 27, 11:00 AM CEST
A FOUR COMPARTMENTS CARVED LACQUER INRŌ
by Bertolami Fine Art s.r.l.
Est: €600- €700
€5500 Bids
A FOUR COMPARTMENTS LEATHER INRŌ
Jun 27, 11:00 AM CEST
A FOUR COMPARTMENTS LEATHER INRŌ
by Bertolami Fine Art s.r.l.
Est: €600- €700
€5500 Bids
AN IVORY INRŌ
Jun 27, 11:00 AM CEST
AN IVORY INRŌ
by Bertolami Fine Art s.r.l.
Est: €800- €1,000
€7500 Bids
A LACQUERED AND GILT WOOD THREE COMPARTMENTS INRŌ
Jun 27, 11:00 AM CEST
A LACQUERED AND GILT WOOD THREE COMPARTMENTS INRŌ
by Bertolami Fine Art s.r.l.
Est: €1,200- €1,500
€1,0000 Bids
A JAPANESE CARVED WOOD FISH INRO. 66.5 grams. 11 cm x 5 cm.
Jun 19, 10:00 AM BST
A JAPANESE CARVED WOOD FISH INRO. 66.5 grams. 11 cm x 5 cm.
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £80- £120
£600 Bids
A Japanese Boxwood Inro carved with Serpents among Foliage. 4.4cm x 4.3cm x 2.4cm
Jun 19, 10:00 AM BST
A Japanese Boxwood Inro carved with Serpents among Foliage. 4.4cm x 4.3cm x 2.4cm
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £50- £75
£40 Bids
A Japanese Carved Hardwood Inro in the form of a Fruit Pod. 17cm x 5.5cm x 3.1cm, weight 112g
Jun 19, 10:00 AM BST
A Japanese Carved Hardwood Inro in the form of a Fruit Pod. 17cm x 5.5cm x 3.1cm, weight 112g
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £100- £150
£800 Bids
A JAPANESE CARVED WOOD TORTOISE INRO. 68 grams. 10 cm x 5.75 cm.
Jun 20, 10:00 AM BST
A JAPANESE CARVED WOOD TORTOISE INRO. 68 grams. 10 cm x 5.75 cm.
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £50- £75
£300 Bids
A Japanese lacquer inro with a wooden netsuke
Jun 26, 8:00 PM CEST
A Japanese lacquer inro with a wooden netsuke
by Venduehuis der Notarissen
Est: €500- €700
€4000 Bids
Japanese Porcelain Inro
Jun 27, 12:00 PM EDT
Japanese Porcelain Inro
by Akiba Galleries
Est: $25- $250
$250 Bids
A 19th Century Japanese Lacquered Inro. 7.1cm x 6.2cm x 1.8cm
Jun 19, 10:00 AM BST
A 19th Century Japanese Lacquered Inro. 7.1cm x 6.2cm x 1.8cm
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £100- £150
£800 Bids
An antique Japanese lacquered inro with carved ivory netsuke and silver ojime, Meiji period, the inro 8cm high
Jun 23, 10:00 AM AEST
An antique Japanese lacquered inro with carved ivory netsuke and silver ojime, Meiji period, the inro 8cm high
by Leski Auctions Pty Ltd
Est: AUD600- AUD1,000
AUD5000 Bids
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Large Signed Japanese Lacquered and Gilt Inro.
Jun 30, 10:00 AM EDT
Large Signed Japanese Lacquered and Gilt Inro.
by Clarke Auction Gallery
Est: $300- $500
$1500 Bids
A Carved Hardwood Ball Inro. 6cm diameter. weight 71g
Jun 19, 10:00 AM BST
A Carved Hardwood Ball Inro. 6cm diameter. weight 71g
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £50- £75
£300 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Japanese Inro


Hannam's Auctioneers

Hannam's Auctioneers

Bertolami Fine Art s.r.l.

Bertolami Fine Art s.r.l.

Clarke Auction Gallery

Clarke Auction Gallery

Adam's

Adam's