55 |Part 2 of —–21 Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀)

Chapter 55 is the detailed part of chapter 21|Muromachi Period Sword.  Please read Chapter 21 before reading this section.

57 Muromach-timeline size 22

                         The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

After the Muromachi period, swords changed to Katana(刀) from Tachi (太刀), as described in chapter 21 Muromachi Period Sword.  Refer to 21| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀)  .  By the end of the Nanboku-cho period, the swords’ length became shorter to approximately 2 feet ± a few inches.  The 3-to-5 feet long swords seen in the Nanboku-cho period were no longer created.  The reason was that, during the Nanboku-cho period, warriors fought mostly riding horses, but after the Muromachi time, infantry fighting became more common.

Oei Bizen (応永備前)                                                                                                             The pronunciation of Oei is“O as Oh” and “ei as A of ABC.”   The Muromachi period was the declining time in sword making.  The swords made during the early Muromachi period in the Bizen area were called Oei BizenOsafune Morimitsu (長船盛光), Osafune Yasumitsu (長船康光), Osafune Moromitsu (長船師光) were the main Oei Bizen swordsmiths.  Soshu Hiromasa (相州広正)、Yamashiro Nobukuni (山城信國)  were also similar to the Oei Bizen style.  Please refer to 21| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀) for Muromachi sword shape, Hamon, Boshi, and Ji-hada.

57 Moromitsu photo (必要分 57 Moromitus Oshigata

Bishu Osafune Moromitsu (備州長船師光)   from Sano Museum Catalogue ((permission granted)

The above Osafune Moromitsu sword is 2 feet 5 inches long with medium Kissaki.  The Hamon has a small wave-like pattern with continuous Gunome (a lined half-circles).  The Boshi area shows irregular waviness with a slightly pointed tip.  Very faint Bo-utsuri (soft shadow shaped like a strip of wood) shows on Ji-hadaBo-utsuri is a distinctive characteristic among all of the Oei Bizen.

Before the Muromachi period, there had been many swordsmith groups in the Bizen area, but by the Muromachi time began, Osafune (長船) was the only remaining active group.

Osafune (長船) is the name of a region, but it became the last name of the swordsmiths during the Muromachi time.  Two other well-known swordsmiths among the Oei Bizen were Osafune Morimitsu (盛光) and Osafune Yasumitsu (康光).  The Hamon by Morimitsu and Yasumitsu shows more work than that of the sword in the photo above.  Chapter 21| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀) shows the Hamon by Morimitsu and Yasumitsu, also describes typical characteristics of the swords in the Muromachi period.

Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

58 Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto Shape

Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Tanto was the trendy style during the early Muromachi time. Swordsmiths in different areas created the Tantos like the one above.  But majorities of this 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 12| The Middle Kamakura Period Tanto

13 Mune drawing

Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Tanto often shows many engravings.  Hi with Soe-hi (parallel double line, wide and narrow side by side ), Tokko-tsuki-ken, Tsume-tsuki-ken, Bonji, etc.

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

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

 

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