The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section
The Muromachi period was a relatively peaceful and prosperous time until a little before “Onin-no Ran,” which was the later part of the Muromachi Period. Refer 20|Muromachi Period History(室町歴史). 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, samurais suspended swords from one’s waist, the blade side down. When a sword was worn this way, the swordsmith’s inscription faces outward, which means that the blade comes on your right when you see the inscription. In this case, the sword is called tachi. Yet, around the Muromachi period, a sword was worn between one’s belt, with the blade up. The inscription of the swordsmiths faced outward when it was worn. Therefore, when you see the inscription, the cutting edge comes on your left. Then it is classified as Katana.
Around the beginning of the Muromachi period, samurai started to wear a pair of swords called Dai-Sho (大小), meaning long and short. The long one is Katana, and the short one is Wakizashi. In general, Tachi is longer than Katana. Katana is longer than Wakizashi, and Wakizashi is 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 much the sword should be shortened depends on the sword’s original length and how much the owner wants it shortened. O-suriage is a kind of a sword that is shortened by a great length. Once a blade is shortened that much, the inscription of the maker’s name is gone. When Hon’ami family (本阿弥家), a sword connoisseur family that have appraised Japanese swords for generations since the mid-Edo period till almost recent days appraised such a suriage sword. They appraised and wrote the sword’s make and the swordsmith’s name on the front side of the hilt, and the connoisseur’s name with his Kaou (similar to signature) on the back. There are several ranks of writings. Which level it should be done depends on the quality of the sword and how an owner wants it. Below are the classes (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)——— length is usually approximately 2 feet and 3 to 4 inches (71cm). The shape of the Muromachi period Katana is somewhat similar to the Heian period tachi style. However, Muromachi Katana is not as grand or graceful as the Heian period sword. The curvature is usually the Koshizori shape. Koshizori means the highest curvature comes at the lower part of the blade. The length and shape are suitable for wearing between the body and the belt. The width and the thickness are well balanced with the size of the sword. 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 the 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 (彫物：Engravings) ———- Bo-hi (single groove), Soe-hi ( Hi accompanied with a thin groove), Futasuji- hi (double narrow groove), Sanskrit, Tokko-tsuki kenTsume-tsuki Ken, name of God, and 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)
Ise Masashige (伊勢正重), Bizen Osafune Norimitsu (備前長船尚光) Juyo Token(重要刀剣) Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted) once owned by my family.