Inro are stacked compartments held together by a silk cord. They carry medicine in powder form and were necessary to have since the Japanese clothes had no pockets. Inro were tucked behind the sash (obi) that closed the outer most kimono, or robe. Inro were held suspended by a toggle called a netsuke at the end of the silk cord. A smaller bead (ojime) below the netsuke, held the compartments of the inro in place.
These small containers are examples of the lengths to which people would go to circumvent sumptuary laws that forbade extravagance and excess.
Here, invisible to all but the carrier, was an example of the bearer’s good taste, wealth, and even in some examples, his literary learning demonstrated in the decorative motifs applied. They are usually signed by the maker, and sometimes the owner.
There is often a thematic relationship of the designs connecting the inro, to the netsuke, and to the ojime.