These elegant small decorative cylinders were worn on a man’s Obi (waist sash). Made from thin leather, wood or lacquered paper. The inrō has several sections and was often used to contain seals and medicinal herbs. These containers are held together by a cord passing through integral grooves along each side and pulled tight by passing through a bead (ojime). Once held tightly sealed this cord passed behind the Obi waist sash and held in place by the weight of a netsuke. The inrō became a decorative addition to wealthy Japanese men’s attire and are now highly sought by collectors. Fine examples can be seen in museums including the Fitzwilliam, Cambridge and The V&A, London.
The examples below are late 17th and early 18th century with design motifs of horses, monkeys dragons and phoenix.