The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section
The Muromachi period was a rather peaceful and prosperous time until a little before “Onin-no Ran”, which was the later part of the Muromachi Period, (Refer Chapter 21 Muromachi Period History). Nanboku-Cho style long sword became useless, as a result, they were shortened. The shortened sword is called Suriage. In general, the Muromachi period was a declining time for sword making.
Tachi and Katana
Until the end of the Nanboku-Cho period or beginning of the Muromachi period, the sword was suspended from one’s waist, the blade side down. When a sword was worn this way, swordsmith’s inscription faces outsite. That means when you see the inscription, the cutting side comes right. This is called Tachi. Yet, around
the Muromachi period, swords were worn between one’s belt, the blade up. The inscription of the swordsmiths faces outside when it is worn. That means when you see the inscription, the cutting edge comes your left. This is called the Katana. Around the beginning of the Muromachi period samurai started to wear one pair of swords together called Dai-Sho(大小), which means large and small. A longer one is called Katana and the shorter one is called Wakizashi. In general, Tachi is longer and Katana is shorter, Wakizashi is even shorter but longer than Tanto. Here is the order of the length.
Tachi > Katana > Wakizashi > Tanto
The difference between Tachi and Katana comes from the way it was worn, not the length
O-Suriage ( shortened a large length, 大磨上げ)
How long a sword should be shortened is depends on the original length of the sword and how long an owner want it shortened. O-suriage is when a sword is shortened a great length. Once a sword is shortened, the inscription is cut off. When a suriage sword was appraised by the Hon’ami family (本阿弥家：Connoisseur family continued since mid Edo period till almost recent day), if he appraised it as a valuable one, he writes the make of the sword and sword smith’s name on the front side of the hilt and writes the connoisseur’s name and his Kaou (similar to signature) on the back of the hilt. There are several ranks. Which rank it should be done is depending on the quality of the sword and how an owner wants it. Below are the ranks (lower to highest).
Shu-Mei (朱明 )———————————————————–name written in Vermilion Kinpun-Mei (金粉名 )———————————————-name lacquered in gold powder Gin-Zougan (銀象嵌 )————————————————————-name inlaid in silver Kin-Zougan (金象嵌 )—————————————————————name inlaid in gold
Sugata (姿 shape)———Usually approximately 2 feet and 3, 4 inches (71cm) long. The shape of the Muromachi period Katana is somewhat like the Heian period Tachi style. But Muromachi Katana is not as grand, not as graceful as Heian period sword. They are Koshizori. Koshizori shape means the highest curvature comes lower than the center of the blade. Suitable length and shape for wearing inside the belt. The width and the thickness of the sword are well balanced with the length. Small Kissaki.
Hirazukuri-Wakizashi———–Hirazukuri means a flat surface with no Shinogi and no Yokote line. Usually One foot and 1, 2 inches long. No curvature. Hirazukuri-Wakizashi appeared During Muromachi time.
Hamon (刃文: tempered line) ———————- Nioi base. Tempered area is well balanced to the width of the blade. Koshi-hiraita-midare mixed with Choji midare.
Boshi ————– Midare-komi, short turn back. See the above illustration. Midare is an irregular wave-like pattern.
Ji-hada (地肌) An area between the tempered line and Shinogi————Soft look, large wood grain pattern, Jiutsuri (faint smoke or cloud-like effect) shows.
Horimono (carvings 彫物) ———- Bo-hi (single groove), Soe hi ( accompanied thin groove), Futasuji hi (double narrow groove), Sanscrit, Tokko- Tsuki –ken, Tsume-Tsuki-Ken, Names of God, Dragon. Carvings became elaborate.
Sword Smiths during Muromachi Period
Bizen Den ———-Osafune Morimitsu (長船盛光), Yasumitsu (康光), Moromitsu (師光) Yamashiro Den———————————————–Yamashiro Nobukuni (山城信国)