Haniwa (literally "clay ring") began as unglazed earthenware cylinders decorating the exterior of the great mounded tombs of the Japanese elite during the 4th to 7th centuries. The tubular bases were half embedded in the earth for stability. Over time the potters began to make elaborate sculptures in many forms: human figures, animals, household objects. They were built in a simple coil and slab technique, smoothed with a bamboo comb and finished with a bamboo knife or spatula, then dried and fired at low temperature to create a warm buff color.
Though roughly made, this figure of a proud warrior is modelled with many realistic details. He wears a triangular, peaked crown or cap associated with royalty, large circular earrings and a beaded necklace. His hair hangs in two thick loops or braids at either side of his head. A leather pouch for an extra bowstring hangs from his belt at the back of his left hip. He reaches for the hilt of his sword, which is fitted with a sword guard. The puffy pantaloons are tied off with ribbons at the knees. There are traces of red pigment, notably a vertical stripe on the front of his doublet.
For another standing haniwa with a sword and wearing a crown in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum and designated as an Important Cultural Property, see Miki Fumio, ed., Haniwa, Nihon no bijutsu (Arts of Japan) 19 (Tokyo: Shibundo, 1967), pl. 12.