The first historical period of glyptic art in Japan reaches from the end of the 6th to the end of the 12th century, culminating in, the work of the great Nara sculptors, Unkei and Period, his pupil Kwaikei.
He belongs to a class of experts called uchi,nono-shi (hammerers) who perform preparatory work for glyptic artists in metal.
The second period in Japanese glyptic art extends from the beginning of the 13th to the early part of the 17th century.
Sacred images were not the only specimens of glyptic art produced in these six centuries; reliquaries, bells, vases, incenseburners, candlesticks, lanterns, decorated arms and armour, and many other objects, showing no less mastery of design and execution, have reached us.
Its manufacture as a special branch of art work dates from the rise of the naturalistic school of painting and the great expansion of the popular school under the Katsugawa, but the okimono formed an occasional amusement of the older glyptic artists.
As in glyptic so in poetic art, the Hellenism of the time was decadent and Alexandrine rather than Attic of the best period.
Costumes of the utmost magnificence were worn, and the chiselling of masks for the use of the performers occupied scores of artists and ranked as a high glyptic accomplishment.
The chief distinguishing feature is that the glyptic character is preserved at the expense of surface finish.
The present generation is more systematically commercial in its glyptic produce than any previous age.
But in fact the glyptic artists of Tokyo, Osaka and KiOto, though they now devote their chisels chiefly to works of more importance than the netsuke, are in no sense inferior to their predecessors of feudal days, and many beautiful netsuke bearing their signatures are in existence.