Keeping and Handling Japanese Inro

Antique lacquer has always been highly valued for its lasting qualities and strength, as not only could a very high gloss be achieved, but it also proved to be impervious to alcohol, acids and hot liquids. It appealed to the Zen Buddhism ideals of ‘Yin and Yang’, as lacquer appears to be so delicately beautiful and light in weight, yet it is hard, impermeable and enduring.

However, great care still needs to be taken when handling any antique Japanese lacquer, especially inro (when complete with the ojime and a netsuke, or manju), as the inro can so easily be damaged by knocks caused by a swinging netsuke. The most common cause of damage occurs when an inro is first picked up, for if the netsuke, or manju, is allowed to swing and bump into the inro, the lacquer will certainly dent and worse still a piece might actually break off.

The best and correct way to pick up an inro, is to firstly pick up the netsuke, or manju, then to also hold and use the silk cord to turn the inro around to look at the other side, rather than to finger the lacquer, as there is something in our perspiration that dulls the shine in time. As an alternative some people only handle lacquer whilst wearing very soft gloves.

All lacquer is best kept in a reasonably humid atmosphere, avoiding any sudden changes of temperature. In some climates this is difficult to arrange, without having good air-conditioning. It is also a good idea to keep a bowl, or two, of water where ever the inro are stored, but even more important to completely avoid the use of any hot spot lights within the same cabinet.

Antique Japanese lacquer Inro and boxes are such incredibly beautiful works of art, that I consider many of them to rate very highly, amongst the finest treasures of the World! So it is well worthwhile taking good care of them.