A large volume of historical documents in Japan show that great subduction earthquakes have repeatedly occurred along the Suruga-Nankai trough off southwest Japan since A.D. 684 with an interval of 100-200 years. They occurred as pairs of M8 events, one in the eastern half (Tokai earthquake) and another in the western half (Nankai earthquake), as was the case for the 1854 Ansei earthquakes, while sometimes occurring as single giant events like the 1707 Ho'ei earthquake. Although the space-time pattern of their recurrence is the best-known in the world, we should study more past events in order to understand the tectonophysical bases of their recurrence. In this respect I review the present understanding of historic Tokai and Nankai earthquakes and discuss related problems from the viewpoint of historical seismology. In this paper, the first of the three in all, I review the events until the early half of the 14th century. The keys to identifying older events are strong ground motion and damage in Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka, those in wider area of southwest Japan, tsunamis along the Pacific coasts of southwest Japan, typical coseismic vertical crustal movements of the Kochi plain, the Muroto and Oma'ezaki points, and the Ise and Suruga Bay coasts, temporal inactivity of specific hot springs, and aftershock activities recorded in Kyoto. The 684 Hakuho earthquake was definitely a Nankai event, and possibly included a Tokai event simultaneously (possibly Ho'ei type). The 887 Nin'na earthquake was also a definite Nankai event and was probably a Tokai event as well (Ho'ei type). The 1096 Eicho earthquake was clearly a Tokai event, but the following 1099 Kowa earthquake has some discrepancies that prevent it from being regarded as a M8 Nankai event. It is not clear yet whether great earthquakes occurred or not in the ca. 200 year intervals of 684-887 and 887-1096. It seems probable that great Tokai and Nankai earthquakes took place in the mid-13th century, but a more detailed investigation of historical seismology is required to discover the missing event.