All emotions as well as quiet,
moss-covered Time
are raining behind your face,
which bears the weight
of two thousand years
behind your deep eyes.
Your mouth is tightened
by a great secret.

You do not cry or laugh
or become angry because
you are always crying,
laughing and angry.

You do not have thoughts
or feelings. You absorb those
continuously. Then they
precipitate in you forever.

Born directly out of the earth,
you were a human thing
before human beings.
There was a shortness
in one of God’s breaths,

and therefore, incomplete,
you can take pride
in a beautiful simplicity
and health.
You store away the universe.

Shuntaro Tanikawa

(Translated by Diane Furtney and Asuka Itaya)

Haniwa (埴輪) are hollow terracotta ‘cylinders’ whose upper part are in the shape of humans, animals, houses etc; they would have stood with others in a protective circle (structurally and symbolically) around Japanese tumuli. The haniwa above dates from around the 6th century ce. I’s thought that the practice of placing haniwa around Japanese tumuli was influenced by, “…the ancient Chinese custom of burying servants and goods with the dead ruler.” Haniwa would have been filled with earth, with the lower part buried so that only the decorative top was visible.

See also the haniwa feature on The British Museum website.