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Inro, netsuke and ojime

Inro, netsuke and ojime

  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1750-1850 (made)
    1775-1850 (made)
    1775-1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Koma Yasumasa (maker)
    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    [Inro] Black, gold, silver and red lacquer with silver foil
    [Netsuke] Wood, carved

  • Credit Line:

    Pfungst Gift

  • Museum number:

    W.231:1 to 3-1922

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The inro is a container made up of tiers. Japanese men used them because the traditional Japanese garment, the kimono, had no pockets. From the late 1500s onwards, Japanese men wore the inro suspended from their sash by a silk cord and a netsuke (toggle). They originally used it to hold their seal and ink or a supply of medicines. However, it rapidly became a costly fashion accessory of little or no practical use. Most inro are rectangular with gently curving sides. This example is decorated with a pagoda and cryptomeria trees under a moon in multi-colour togidashie (brought out by polishing) lacquer.

Lacquer was most commonly used in the manufacture of inro since it was highly suitable for storing medicines. Lacquer is the sap from the tree Rhus verniciflua that grows mainly in East Asia. After processing, it is applied in many thin layers to a base material. The craft of lacquering, as well as making inro bodies, is highly complex, time-consuming and expensive.

From the 1700s onwards, many artists signed the inro they made. This example is signed Koma Yasumasa. The Koma was one of the great families of lacquer artists who specialised in making and decorating inro.

Physical description

[Inro] This inro has a black lacquer ground, decorated with a pagoda in grove of cryptomeria trees, a moon and a cuckoo, in takamakie of gold, silver and red, and togidashie. The cuckoo is in shell and the moon is silver foil. Interior, fundame
[Netsuke] Carved black wood netsuke in the form of a bird on a roof tile.
[Ojime] Black lacquer bead with a sparrow depicted in gold on a silver ground.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


ca. 1750-1850 (made)
1775-1850 (made)
1775-1850 (made)


Koma Yasumasa (maker)
Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques

[Inro] Black, gold, silver and red lacquer with silver foil
[Netsuke] Wood, carved


[Inro] Height: 8.6 cm, Width: 6.4 cm, Depth: 1.9 cm

Descriptive line

Inro depicting a pagoda and cryptomeria trees, black, gold, silver and red lacquer with silver foil, signed Koma Yasumasa, ca. 1750-1850, with netsuke and ojime of 1775-1850

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Julia Hutt, Japanese Inro, V&A Publications, 1997; frontispiece


Silver; Gold; Wood; Lacquer; Foil


Carving; Lacquering

Subjects depicted

Birds; Pagodas (buildings)


Containers; Lacquerware; Accessories

Collection code


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