top of page
  • Writer's pictureAkiko Murakami

"Magatama", unique Japanese shape

If you are a woman, do you like natural stone accessories? I do!

On that note, in Japan, there is a traditional, uniquely shaped ornament called magatama that has been found since ancient times.


Magatama are curved, comma-shaped beads that appeared in prehistoric Japan from the Final Jōmon period through the Kofun period, approximately 100 BCE to the 6th century CE. The beads, also described as "jewels", were made of primitive stone and earthen materials in the early period, but by the end of the Kofun period were made of jade. Magatam, a originally served as decorative jewelry, but by the end of the Kofun period functioned as ceremonial and religious objects." 

Swords, mirrors, and jewels were common objects of status for regional rulers in Japan as early as the Yayoi period (and were further widespread in the Kofun period)

A noted magatama is the "Yasakani no Magatama", one of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan. (other two are, sacred mirrors and sword) According to the Japanese mythology, all these treasures were received by Ninigi no Mikoto from Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, when he first came down to the land of Japan from the heavenly world. "Yasakani no Magatama" is stored at the Kashiko-dokoro, the central shrine of the Three Palace Sanctuaries at the Tokyo Imperial Palace, and is used in the enthronement ceremony of the Emperor of Japan.

However, it is said, even the Emperor himself has never seen the actual object inside the special box..

Archaeologists and historians are unable yet to explain what the origins of magatama forms are, or whether these forms can be traced back to one convergent source. A number of explanations have been suggested, including:

  • They may be fashioned after animal fangs/teeth

  • They may be modeled after the shape of fetuses

  • They may be symbolic of the shape of the soul (or spirit)

  • They may be modeled after the shape of the moon, etc.

I personally like the third one. Some people point out that magatama shape is similar to the design that are drawn on the surface of a Japanese drum (wadaiko),



bottom of page