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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1980-ca. 1999 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Saratani, Tomizo (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Lacquered paper and/ or wood with gold and silver lacquer on a black lacquer ground

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Stephen Overbury

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The 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. They 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. Most inro are rectangular with gently curving sides.

With the adoption of western dress from the mid 19th century onwards, inro gradually fell from use and were actively seen as old fashioned. Over time, the knowledge and skills to make inro were also lost. In more recent times, with the renewed interest in the forms and designs of past lacquerwork, a number of craftsmen attempted to rediscover the complex production methods of inro. Tomizo Saratani is one such lacquer artist who has successfully produced a number of inro. Born in Kyoto in 1949, saratani learned the art of lacquering from his father. He not only works in a wide variety of forms and styles, but has also been involved in lacquer restoration. Although this inro is late 20th century, its subject matter and lacquer techniques are completely traditional in style.

Physical description

A flattened, rectangular inro with seven sections, decorated with a pair of mandarin ducks swimming in water on both sides, in gold and silver togidashi maki-e (completely flat) lacquer on a black lacquer ground, with circular gold foil for the eye. Attached to a plain gold lacquer spherical bead ojime (sliding bead) by grey cord. Plain wood outer box.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


ca. 1980-ca. 1999 (made)


Saratani, Tomizo (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Lacquered paper and/ or wood with gold and silver lacquer on a black lacquer ground

Marks and inscriptions

[Tomizo] Saratani


Height: 8 cm estimate through the display case, Width: 6.1 cm estimate through the display case

Descriptive line

Inro, gold and silver lacquer on a black lacquer ground, pair of mandarin ducks swimming in water, signed Saratani [Tomizo Saratani], Japan, late 20th century.


Lacquer; Paper; Wood

Subjects depicted



Lacquerware; Accessories


East Asia Collection

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