58|Part 2 of —–22| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代) 1393 —- 1467

Chapter 58 is the detailed part of chapter 22|Muromachi Period Sword.  Please read Chapter 22 before start reading this chapter.

As described in Chapter 22, the big change in the Muromachi Period was from Tachi  (太刀 ) to Katana (刀 ).  Refer to 22|Muromachi Period Sword.   By the end of the Nanboku-Cho period, the length of the sword became shorter.  In the Muromachi time, the length of the sword became shorter to approximately 2 feet and 3 or 4 inches in length, no more long swords.  This is because,  Nanboku-Cho period,  the fighting was done mostly riding horses but after Muromachi time, changed to infantry fighting.

Oei Bizen (応永備前 )

Oei is pronounced “O as Oh”, “ei as A of ABC”.  The Muromachi period was the declining time in sword making.  The early part of the Muromachi period is called Oei Bizen time.  Osafune Morimitsu (長船盛光 ), Osafune Yasumitsu (長船康光 ), Osafune Moromitsu (長船師光) are the main Oei Bizen swordsmiths.  Soshu Hiromasa (相州広正 )、Yamashiro Nobukuni (山城信國)  were also similar to Oei Bizen stylePlease refer to 22 Muromachi Period Sword for style, Hamon, Boshi, Ji-hada.

58 Moromitsu photo 158 Moromitus Oshigata                                  Bishu Osafune Moromitsu (備州長船師光)   from Sano Museum Catalogue

Above sword is 2 feet & 5 inches long, medium Kissaki, Hamon has a small wave-like pattern with continuous Gunome (half circle).   Boshi shows irregular waviness, pointed at the tip a little.  It shows Bo Utsuri (faint shadow shaped like a strip of wood).  Bo Utsuri is a well-known characteristic among all of the Oei Bisen. 

In the Bizen area until this time, there were many groups within Bizen, but in Muromachi time, only Osafune (長船) was the active swordsmith group.  Osafune (長船) is the name of the place,  but in Muromachi time, it started to become the last name.  Two other well-known swordsmiths among Oei Bizen are Morimitsu (盛光 ) and Yasumitsu (康光).  The Hamon by Morimitsu and Yasumitsu shows more works in it than the photo above.  That is described in 22 Muromachi Period Sword under the usual characteristic of Muromachi sword.

Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

58 Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

         Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto Shape

Hirazukuri-Ko-Wakizashi Tanto was in fashion during the early Muromachi time. Different swordsmiths in other area made like the one above.  But approximately 80 % of those types were made by Oei Bizen swordsmiths.

The characteristic of the Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto ——— Usually 1 foot and 1 or 2 inches long.  No Yokote line, no Shinogi, and No Sori (no curvature, straight back).  Average thickness.  Narrow width.  Gyo no Mune (refer 13 Tanto Middle Kamakura period).

13 Mune drawing

Hirazukuri Kowakizashi Tanto often shows many engravings like Hi with Soe-Hi (one wide and narrow on the side), Tokkotuki-Ken, Tsumetsuki-Ken, Bohji, etc.

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji20 Tokko, tume Ken  58 tsumetukiken and Hi

*drawings from “Nihonto no Okite to Tokucho” by Honami Koson


56| Nanboku-Cho Tanto (南北朝短刀)

This is a detailed part of chapter 20.  Please read 20 | Nanboku-Cho Tanto(南北朝短刀)  first, before reading this chapter.


20 Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto

The characteristic of the picture above, the shape is emphasized in the drawing.

At the end of chapter 20 | Nanboku-Cho Tanto(南北朝短刀, there is a list of swordsmith’s names.  Hiromitsu and Akihiro represent the most common characteristic of Nanboku-Cho Tanto.

56 cropped Hiromitu photo 20 HitatsuraHiromitsu From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)


Enbun Jyoji Ko-wakizashi Tanto is also called Sun-Nobi Tanto.  The top part of the Tanto bends outward slightly, this is called Sakizori.

Hiromitu and Akihiro Characteristic

Shape———-wide width.  Usually 1 foot and 1, 2 inches long.  Thin body.  Sakizori

Hamon ——-Tempered line can be wide and narrow.  Yakidashi (1, 2 inches above a Machi area) is narrowly tempered and wider tempered line above.  Hamon around Fukura area is showy.  Mainly Nie.  Sunagashi, Kinsuji, Gunome, Umanoha-Midare (shape like horse teeth), Hitatsura appears (see above drawing).

Boshi———-Irregular, uneven temper line, the almost entire area. Deep turn back.

Jihada ———Wood grained

Nakago ——-Tanago-Bara shape (refer 20 | Nanboku-Cho Tanto(南北朝短刀).


The first generation Shodai Nobukuni is the top three students of Sadamune.  He is called Sadamune San Tetsu (貞宗三哲).     The characteristic of Nobukuni is almost the same as the characteristic of Hiromitsu and Akihiro.  Nobukuni also created Sun-nobi  Tanto like the one below which has a Hoso-suguha (narrow straight tempered line), Ko-Mokume (fine small burl),  Ko-maru Boshi (small round)

56 Nobukuni 1 Nobukuni4 56 Nobukuni 2

This is my sword.  Shodai Nobukuni (初代信國).  This is Juyo Token


number Juyo 3220,    Certification Juyo-Token

Wakizashi  Nobukuni,    31.4cm length, 0.3cm curvature, HirazukuriMitsumune (three-sided Mune ),  Sunnobi, Ji-hada is Wood grain and Jinie (Nie on the surface)Hamon is Chu-Suguha ( medium straight),  Front carving shows Bonji (Sanscrit), Sanko-Ken. The back side of the sword, engraving is Sanscrit and Hoko (pike).   Original Nakago.    The examination by the Nihon Bijutu Token Hozon Kyokai.  It is certified as Juyo-Token.  The Chairman Moritatu Hosokawa



22|Muromachi Period Sword

21 Muromachi period Timeline

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.

                                            TachiKatana  >  Wakizashi  >  Tanto        

The difference between Tachi and Katana comes from the way it was worn, not the length

22 tachi & Katana


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.

22 Muromachi sword shape

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.


22Hamon (Koshi Hiraita midare)
from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

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.

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji20 Tokko, tume Ken







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)


22 Muromachi sword from Sano
From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)Bizen Osafune Naomitsu (備前長船尚光)
Ise Masashige (伊勢正重) Once Family-owned   Classified as Juyo Token(重要刀剣)

20 | Nanboku-Cho Tanto(南北朝短刀)

18 Nanbokucho time line

The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section


During the Nanboku-Cho Period, the type of Tanto called Hirazukuri-Kowakizashi-Sunnobi-Tanto was made.  Hirazukuri means a flat sword without the Yokote line and without Shinogi.  Ko-Wakizashi means a shorter sword.  Sun-Nobi Tanto means longer than standardThis is also called Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto.  It is called this way because the majority of this type Tanto was forged around Enbun, Jyoji Imperial era.  In Japan, each time the Emperor changed, we changed the names of the era.  Enbun was from 1356 to 1361, Jyoji was from 1362 to 1368


20 Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto

Shape (Sugata 姿) ——-It is common idea that the length of Tanto should be 1 shaku or less.  Shaku is an old Japanese measurement unit, which is very close to 1 foot.  8.5 sun (old Japanese measurement unit) is approximately 10 inches. This is the standard length Tanto called Jo-Sun Tanto.  Anything longer than Jo-Sun Tanto is called Sun-Nobi Tanto.  Anything shorter than Jo-Sun is called Sun-Zumari Tanto.  Most of the Nanboku-Cho Tanto is approximately 1 foot 2 inches long, therefore they are called Hirazukuri-Kowakizashi-Sun-Nobi Tanto Sakizori (curved outward at the top.  See the illustration above).  Wide width and thin body.  Fukura Kareru (No Fukura). Shin-no-Mune.  See the illustration below.


20 Fukura           20 Shin-no-Mune

Hi, Horimono (Goove and engraving , 彫刻) —– Groove on Mune side.  Bonji (Sanscrit, described in 17 Bonji Suken), Koshi-bi (Short groove) and Tokko- Tsuki Ken, or Tumetuki Ken (see below) appears.  Curving of Ken (dagger) is done wide and deep in the upper part, the lower part was curved shallow and narrower.  This is called Soshu-Bori (Soshu carving).

20 Tokko, tume Ken

Hamon (Tempered line) —– Narrow tempered area at the lower part, gradually grows wider as it goes up toward the top then similar look wide Hamon goes into the Boshi area.  Hamon in Kissaki area is Kaeri Fukashi (turn back deep) as the illustration below.  Coarse Nie. O-Midare (large irregular pattern).


20 Hitatsura
From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Jihada —– Loose wood grain pattern called Itame.  Yubashiri (discussed in  17 Yubashiri, Chikei.jpg), Tobiyaki (Irregular patches of tempered metal) appears.  Crowded Tobiyaki is called Hitatsura (illustration above).

Nakago (Tang) —- Short Tanago-bara.  That means the belly of Japanese bitterling(fish) shape.

20 Tanago Bara

Sword-smiths during Nanboku-Cho Period Soshu Den(school)

Soshu Den ———————————————————-Hiromitu( 広光) Akihiro (秋広) Yamashiro Den ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重)   Bizen Den ——————————————————— Kanemitu (兼光) Chogi (長義 )

20 Hiromitu (Sano Museum)

19|Nanboku-Cho Period Sword (North and South Dynasty Sword)

18 Nanbokucho time line

                           The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

During the Nanboku-Cho period, Samurais demanded large, elaborate, and impressive, yet practical sword.  The Soshu-Den style sword in Nanbochi-Cho time was just that.  This is the most popular style then.  The Nanboku-Cho period was the height of the Soshu Den.  Many swordsmiths moved from other provinces to Kamakura area and forged the Soshu-Den style swords.   Other schools and provinces outside Kamakura area also made the SoshuDen style swords in their own places.

19 Nanboku-cho Sword style

Sugata ( 姿: Shape)———-The original length of a swords was 3, 4, or 5, feet long, but shortened to approximately two and a half feet long at a later time.  A greatly shortened sword is called O-Suriage.

The Nanboku-Cho style sword has a shallow Kyo-zori (also called Torii-zori).  Refer Chapter 6 Heian period.  The highest curvature comes around the middle of the body.  A wide body, high Shinogi, narrow Shinogi-Ji.  Refer Chapter 4 Names of parts.  The thin body called Kasane is a distinctive feature for the Nanboku-cho style.  High Gyo-no-mune or Shin-no-mune, sometimes Maru-Mune (round back).


19 Nanboku-cho 3 kinds Mune

Hi (: groove) and Horimono (彫刻: engraving)—– On Shinogi-Ji area (refer to Chapter 4 Names of parts)often a single hi (Bo-hi), double hi, Suken (dagger), Bonji (Sanscrit), Dragon are engraved.


9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Hamon (刃: Tempered line) —- The lower part of the body shows a narrow tempered line, with the higher part shows a wider showy tempered line.  Course Nie.   O-midare (large irregular hamon), Notare-midare (wavy irregular hamon), Gunome-midare (a mix of repeated half circular and irregular hamon).  Inazuma, Kinsuji (refer to Chapter 15 Late Kamakura Period sword) also sometimes appears

19 Hamon Notare 319 Mamon choji gunome19 Hitatsura Hamon Hiromitsu

*From Sano Museum Catalogue ( Permission granted).

Jihada (地肌: Area between shinogi and tempered line)  Refer to Chapter 4 Names of parts——Wood grain pattern (Itame 板目). Sometimes Tobiyaki, a patchy tempered spot(s) appears on jihada.

Kissaki (切っ先) and Boshi (Tempered line at Kissaki area) —– O-Kissaki (long and large kissaki). Fukura kareru (less arc).  Midare-komi (body and boshi have a similar tempered line), with kaeri fukashi (hamon deeply turns back), sometimes Hitatsura (entirely tempered).  See the above illustration.

Sword-smiths during Nanboku-Cho Period Soshu Den (school)

From Soshu———————————————————Hiromitsu (広光)  Akihiro (秋広)  From Yamashiro ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重)  From Bizen (called So-den Bizen)————-Chogi (長儀 )group  Kanemitsu (兼光 ) group  From Chikuzen —————————————————————-Samoji (左文字 ) group


19 Chogi photo from Sano book

The distinctive characteristics of the Nanboku-Cho period sword on the photo above      

  • The trace of an engraving of Suken on the nakago indicates that this area was once a part of the main body.
  • Long kissak








9| Middle Kamakura Period —Yamashiro School(鎌倉中期山城伝)

10 Middle Kamakura period Timeline                   The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section

Yamashiro school swords have the characteristics as below.

Sugata(shape)—–Generally the width of the blade is narrow, especially around yokote line.  The bottom of the blade has funbari (A-line shape or flares out like the lower part of Eiffel Tower).  Thick Kasane. The type of the curvature is kyo-zori (highest curvature comes around the middle of the sword) or Koshi-zori (lower curvature).  Small Kissaki with fukura (rounded).  Shinogi is high with Gyo-no-Mune (行の棟) or Sin-no-Mune ( 真の棟).

13 Mune drawing


9 鎌倉中期刀姿

Horimono(Engraving)—–The tip of a Hi (樋, groove) is the exact proper shape.  Sometimes you may see Bonj (Sanscrit) and suken (sword illustration).

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Nakago(中心)—–Long and thin with curvature

Hamon(刃文)—– Mostly suguha (straight line), double straight line, straight line with the irregular line.  Sometimes thin gold line shape like the lightning in the sky appears.  The temper line is Nie Base.  Nie and Nioi will be explained in the next chapter.


picture for 8
佐野美術館図録1 豊後国行平(Bungo-no-Kuni-Yukihira  Sano Museum Catalog) permission granted


Boshi(鋩子)—–   Small round and large round.

9 Fukura

Jitetu(地鉄)—–     Well forged fine surface.  Small burl pattern and wood grain pattern.  Lots of Ji-Nie(地沸) on the surface.

Names of the swordsmiths during the middle Kamakura period

Ayano-Koji group —— Ayano-Koji Sadatoshi (綾小路 定利 )

Awataguchi group —– Awataguchi kunituna (粟田口国綱)

Rai group —————-Rai kuniyuki (来国行) Rai Nijikunitoshi (来ニ字国俊)

Other provinces who made Yamashiro style at this time

Sagami-no-kuni-Yamanouchi-Kunituna (相模国山内国綱)

Bungo-no-kuni-Yukihira (豊後国行平)

Higo-no-Enjyu (肥後の延寿)

佐野美術館図録1 来国俊 ( Sano Museum Catalogue Rai-Kunitoshi) permission granted