21| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Muromach

       The red circle above indicate the time we discuss in this section

The Muromachi period was a relatively peaceful and prosperous time until a little before “Onin-no-Ran,” which happened at the end of the Muromachi PeriodRefer to Chapter 20|Muromachi Period History (室町時代歴史) .  The Nanboku-cho style long sword became useless; thus, they were shortened.  The shortened blade is called Suriage.  In general, the Muromachi period was the declining time for sword making.

Tachi and Katana

Until the end of the Nanboku-cho period or the beginning of the Muromachi period, Samurai suspended swords from one’s waist, the blade side down.  When a sword was worn this way, the swordsmith inscribed his name to the side that 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 side up.  The swordsmiths inscribed his name to face 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 large and small.  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.   22 tachi & Katana

O-suriage ( 大磨上: Katana shortened by great length) 

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 sword that is shortened by a great length.  Once a blade is shortened that much, the inscription of the maker’s name is cut off.  When Hon’ami family (本阿弥家, a sword connoisseur family who have appraised Japanese swords for generations since the Muromachi  period till today) appraised such a Suriage sword, they wrote the make of the sword 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 is depending 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)———— The average length is usually  2 feet and 3 to 4 inches (68~71cm).  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.

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 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.

22Hamon (Koshi Hiraita midare)
from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)
  • Boshi (Tempered line at Kissaki area) ————– 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, Ji-utsuri (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 ken, Tsume-tsuki Ken, name of God, and dragon.  Carvings became elaborate.

8 Hi, Suken, Bonji                  21 Tsume-tuki-ken tokko with caption

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)

img057 21Masashige     21 Muromachi sword from Sano

Ise Masashige (伊勢正重),                     Bizen Osafune Naomitsu (備前長船尚光)         Juyo Token(重要刀剣)                           Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)    once my family sword


14| Late Kamakura Period Sword (鎌倉末太刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

The beginning of the Soshu style

A new sword style called Soshu Den emerged after the Mongolian invasion in the latter part of the Kamakura period.  Kamakura region became prosperous under the rule of the Hojo family (北条).  Many swordsmiths moved to Kamakura.  Those people were Kunituna (国綱) group from Yamashiro area and Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) and Kunimune (国宗) from Bizen area.  They are the origin of Soshu Den (相州伝).  A star swordsmith, Goro-Nyudo-Masamune (五郎入道正宗), appeared during this time.

15 Soshu sword with explanation

Shape (Sugata 姿) ——- Okissaki (large-kissak: 大切先) and Chu-kissaki (medium kissaki: 中切先).   The tip of Hi ends lower (see below illustration).  Hamaguriha was no longer in style.  The body became thinner.  The original length was approximately 3 feet or longer, but the majority of them were shortened to 2 feet and 3 or 4 inches at a later time.  The shortened sword is called O-suriage (大磨上).15 Kissak shape of 4

14 Hi end lower

Hamon——————–Narrow Hamon and wide Hamon.     

Narrow Hamon ——- A mix of Suguha (straight) and Ko-choji (small clove-like pattern), and Ko-gumome (small half-circle like pattern).  Small Nie base. (shown below)

10 Nie & Nioi

Wide Hamon———– Notare-midare (wavy), O-gunomeNie base.  Ashi-iri (short line toward the blade, the right drawing below).  Inazuma (lightning-like line) or Kinsuji (bright, radiant line) may appear on a tempered line.  However, Inazuma and Kinsuji require trained eyes to be detected.  It is hard for beginners to notice the Inazuma or Kinsuji.

15 Late Kamakura Soshu Hamon

Boshi————- The main body and Boshi has the same type of Hamon.  At the tip of the Kissaki, turn back a little or Yakizume.  You may also see O-maru (large round), Ko-maru (small round), Kaen (flame like), or Nie-kuzure.  See “Chapter 12 Middle Kamakura period: Tanto” for Yakizume and Kaen.

15 three boshi name

Jihada or Jitetsu (between Shinogi and Tempered line)—– Strong Ji-nie (地沸) that is the sand-like small dots appears on Ji (between tempered line and Mune).  Yubashiri (a cluster of Ji-nie), Kinsuji (bright, radiant line formed by Nie ), Inazuma (a lightning-like irregular line), or Chikei (similar to Kinsuji) appears on Ji-hada.

15 Yubashiri, Chikei, Inazuma

Late Kamakura Period Soshu School Sword Smiths

From Bizen————–Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) Kunimune (国宗 )   From Yamashiro ————————————–Toroku- Sakon- Kunituna (藤六左近国綱) 

The above three swordsmiths were the origin of the Soshu Den (school) in Kamakura.  Later, Tosaburo-Yukimitu and his son, famous Goro Nyudo Masamune appeared.

More  Soshu Den swordsmiths other than above

From Yamashiro (山城)———- Rai Kunitsugu (来国次), Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重) From Etchu (越中) province ———————Gou- no-Yoshihiro (郷義弘) Norishige (則重) From   Mino (美濃) province ——————————————-Kaneuji (兼氏) Kinjyu (金重) From   Chikuzen (筑前) province —————————————————-Samoji (左文字)

14 masamune1 14 Masamune Hamon 

Goro-Nyudo-Masamune(正宗)   Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館図録) Permission granted  Since Masamune lived in a beach town, Kamakura, his hamon style sometimes looks like ocean waves.

14 Masamune, Yoshioka Ichimonji Endo.jpg 1

Once owned by my family