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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    17th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Basketwork, tortoiseshell and lead

  • Credit Line:

    Pfungst Gift

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

An inro is a container made up of tiers. From the late 16th century, Japanese men wore an inro suspended from their sash by a silk cord and a netsuke (toggle) because the traditional Japanese garment, the kimono, had no pockets. Unusually the sides of each section of this inro are fitted with a metal loop through which the cord is threaded. Inro were originally used to hold their owner’s seal and ink or a supply of medicines. However, inro rapidly became costly fashion accessories of little or no practical use.

Traditionally when a man carried his seal, it was protected from damage by an outer cover or pouch made of leather, cloth or straw. It was from this that the term inro (‘seal basket’) is thought to have developed. A few inro, such as this example, have details of basketwork as the main elements of their decoration. Under the basketwork were strips of tortoiseshell and lead, many of which have been lost as a result of corrosion. The small size of such inro, however, suggests that they were not intended to hold a seal.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


17th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Basketwork, tortoiseshell and lead


Height: 7 cm, Width: 5.4 cm, Depth: 2.1 cm

Descriptive line

Inro, basketwork, tortoiseshell and lead, 17th century


Tortoiseshell; Lead


Accessories; Containers; Lacquerware


East Asia Collection

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