Inro – Passenger Boat
Inro – Passenger Boat

Inro – Passenger Boat


A four-case inrō depicting a passenger boat rendered in different shades of gold togidashi, takamaki-e and strips of aogai. Packed with the four categories of people – samurai, farmers, artisans and merchants – the boat sails across rolling waves set against a gold sprinkled roiro ground. 

The passenger boat subject I often find a lifeless; however, this example has provided me hours of entertainment, each time I look I find something that makes me smile. The exceptional detail each passenger has been afforded, with various expressions, hairstyles and even moods conveyed by the artist, gives the inrō a lovely charm and fills it with personality. If one looks at the oyakata (chief boatman) seated at the stern of the boat, his arms and legs are folded and he looks less than pleased with his two shipmates’ efforts. My favourite character in the scene is a burly looking chap with a spiky hairstyle. He might be a streetwise townsman or a Kabuki actor playing an evil influence (akudama). He has an almost Ray Winston look about him and I certainly wouldn’t want to encounter him on a dark night in Edo. To the bow of the boat there appears to be much more room; a chōnin has the space to stretch out and enjoy the ride, laid with a smile watching the waves go by. 

The quality of the aogai work is again worth noting; it glows, displaying beautiful shades of blue, purple and green. The artist’s ability is evident, the aogai is cleverly worked around the right-hand cord runner and onto the verso.

The internal compartments are rendered in black lacquer with gold fundame rims.

People on board:

Sendo - A boatman at the ship’s stern

Kajitori - A skipper at the helm

Oyakata – Chief boatman in charge, with a bandana (hachimaki) tied over his head

Amigasa-uri - A woven straw hat seller

Haha-oya and aka-chan - Mothers and babies

Hikeshi - A fire-fighter with a fire-standard pole (matoi)  

O-cha-uri - A street tea vendor

O-bo-san - Priests in black attire with hats

Yama-bushi - A mountain ascetic with a Tokin headcap


Mojin - A blind man and his companion, with a large black rucksack

Shinokosho - The four categories of people: samurai, farmers, artisans and merchants

Signed to the right-hand cord runner in red lacquer – Matsune sho (‘sho’ means written or inscribed)


7cm x 5.8cm


If you are interested in purchasing this inro you can contact me via the details below.

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