Keeping and Handling Japanese Inro
By John N. Cohen (The Cohen Collection)
Antique lacquer was always highly valued for its lasting qualities and strength. A very high gloss could be achieved, proving impervious to alcohol, acids and hot liquids. It would also have 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 antique Japanese lacquer inro (especially when complete with ojime and a netsuke, or manju) as the inro can so easily be damaged by knocks. The most common cause of damage occurs when an inro is first picked up. If the netsuke, or manju, is allowed to swing and bump into the inro, the lacquer will certainly dent and worse still might chip.
The best and correct way to pick up an inro, is to firstly pick up the netsuke, or manju, then to hold and use the silk cord to turn the inro around to look at the other side when inspecting Inro, 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 airconditioning. 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 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 worth while taking good care of them.