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The Haniwa (埴輪, lit. "circle of clay"[a]) are terracotta clay figures which were made for ritual use and buried with the dead as funerary objects during the Kofun period (3rd to 6th centuries AD) in Japan. Haniwa were created according to the wazumi technique, in which mounds of coiled clay were built up to shape the figure, layer by layer. The Haniwa were made with water-based clay and dried into a coarse and absorbent material that stood the test of time. The protruding parts of the figures were made separately and then attached, while a few things were carved into them. They were smoothed out by a wooden paddle. Earth terraces were arranged to place them with a cylindrical base into the ground, where the earth would hold them in place. The most important of the haniwa were found in southern Honshu, especially the Kansai region around Nara, and northern Kyūshū. Haniwa grave offerings were made in numerous forms, such as horses, chickens, birds, fans, fish, houses, weapons, shields, sunshades, pillows, and male & female humans. Besides decorative and spiritual reasons of protecting the deceased in their afterlife, these figures also served as a sort of retaining wall for the burial mound. Because these haniwa display the contemporary clothing, hairstyle, farming tools, and architecture, these sculptures are important as a historical archive of the Kofun Period.

Originally, the cylindrical type haniwa were set on top of the funeral mounds, so it is believed that they had a purpose in funeral rituals; however, as the haniwa became more developed, they were set towards the outside of the grave area, and it is thought that they were used as boundary markers to mark the borders of the gravesite.

There is a theory that the soul of the deceased would reside in the haniwa, as the earlier haniwa were placed on top of the funeral mounds. There are haniwa that are equipped with weapons and armor, and these are also thought to be containers for souls. The armor and weapons would serve the purpose of driving away evil spirits and protecting the buried ruler from calamity. Because the horse and animal shaped haniwa were normally neatly arranged into a line, it is believed that they were part of a sending-off ceremony.

Although the religious implications of the haniwa have largely declined in modern society, the sculptures are still prized by many for their aesthetic and historical significance. The works of Shōjirō Ishibashi, for example, were heavily influenced by the haniwa. They have been accepted as "Pure Art", according to Time magazine. Beyond simple appreciation as artistic sculptures, modern popular culture has, in some cases, even portrayed the haniwa as containing an actual sentient entity and not just as a simple empty sculpture. The most common portrayal depicts the haniwa with a rounded, pot-like shape, bearing two deep eyes, a wide mouth, and two featureless "arms" on opposite sides of the "pot". The portrayal of living haniwa has (since the late 1990s) become widespread, being featured in trading cards, video games such as Animal Crossing & the Kirby series, and television. In many of the depictions, the haniwa is primarily presented as a ghostlike, malevolent creature, without attempting to retain the historical aspect of the haniwa's religious nature.

Haniwa in the Len'en Project[edit]

It seems that the haniwa in the Len'en Project can be made from more than just clay. In Reactivate Majestical Imperial, Sukune Katano has created haniwa from ice for attack purposes. They are also the perfect place for housing for divine spirits (fitting with the theory that haniwa can be used for housing deceased souls), with Sukune (who is a haniwa themself) not realizing this.

Characters that are this species[edit]


  1. This was a reference to how the haniwa were arranged in a circle above the tomb.