Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1467 Muromachi samurai
Subjectsamurai warrior
Culture: Muromachi Japanese
Setting: Onin War, early Sengoku Jidai, Japan 1467 - mid-16thc
Evolution1221 Kamakura samurai > 1336 Nanbokucho samurai > 1467 Muromachi samurai 

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Art of the samurai 2009 p22 (Ogawa Morihiro, "The spirit of the samurai" p3-35)
"Between 1392 and 1573 Japan was ruled by shoguns of the Ashikaga family residing in the Muromachi district of the capital, from which the period takes its name.  The imperial court, now reunified, was also located in Kyōto.  Neither the shoguns nor the emperors, however, exercised control over the entire country.  As in the late Kamakura period, power was in the hands of local lords, or daimyo, who ruled in feudal fashion over their retainers and exercised absolute control over their own domains.  The period also saw a rise in the economic status of the lower classes and an economic boom in the country in general.  Technological advances were made in agriculture, and the craft industries flourished.  Towns and port cities increased in size and number, and foreign trade expanded.  Zen Buddhism was the dominant religion among the nobles and shoguns, and Zen monks returning from study in China transmitted their firsthand knowledge of Chinese culture countrywide.  The darker side of the Muromachi period was the continual warfare -- for the most part power struggles between lords and vassals and between lords -- reflecting the inability of the central government to impose order."

* Lorge 2008 p53-54
"The Onin War marked the final collapse of even the pretense of central authority under the Kamakura bakufu, and ushered in the Japanese Warring States period (1467-1568).  Widespread warfare created a degree of social mobility as the political struggle demanded more and more military resources.  Without a dominant political actor, warlords all over Japan felt free to pursue their ambitions for greater power, or even to become the new dominant power.  From the point of view of military developments, the first important change was the return to the extensive use of infantry, which laid the groundwork for the adoption of arquebuses in the sixteenth century.  As the response to the Mongol invasions demonstrated, cavalry were less useful than infantry in entrenched positions or confined spaces.  Japanese warriors had changed their way of fighting to oppose the Mongols, but reverted back to their cavalry-centered methods when fighting each other.  This continued to be the case until street fighting in the confines of Kyoto, the capital, forced warriors on to foot."


* Art of the samurai 2009 p39 (Ikeda Hiroshi, "Japanese armor: An overview" p37-115)
"From the Nanbokuchō period (1336-1392) to the Muromachi period (1392-1573), warfare in Japan came ot be increasingly centered on combat with swords, in particular tachi and uchigatana, and on staff weapons with short, sword-like blades, known as naginata.  The large, elaborate forms of ō-yoroi were replaced with the more compact, tight-waisted armors such as haramaki and dō-maru, which were better suited to battle on foot.  The ō-yoroi eventually evolved into a ceremonial armor worn by the shogun and his companions for travel and for ritual use in festivals.
​    "The haramaki and dō-maru, similar forms of light armor originally designed for infantry, differ only in the manner in which they are closed around the body.  The dō-maru opens down the wearer's right side, while the haramaki opens down the center of the back.  In the Muromachi period, bushi made adaptations to both armors, as they had to ō-yoroi, and augmented them with kabuto and sode. ... The simplest form of armor, worn by bushi of the lowest classes, is known as hara-ate and consists of a plate covering only the front of the torso."

* Art of the samurai 2009 p22 (Ogawa Morihiro, "The spirit of the samurai" p3-35)
"The elaborate armor (ō-yoroi ) made for mounted combat was unsuitable for combat on foot and was replaced by the haramaki and dō-maru, which were lighter and allowed far more ease of movement."


* Friday 2004 p78
"Swords, as emblems of power, appear in the earliest Japanese mythology, and were regularly presented by medieval warrior leaders as gifts or rewards to their followers.  By the Muromachi period, expressions such as 'clash of swords' (tachi uchikatana uchi, or uchi tachi), or 'wield a sword' (tachi tsukamatsurare) were recognized as generic appellations for combat, irrespective of the actual weapons employed.  Mystique and symbolic value nothwithstanding, however, swords were never a key battlefield armament in medieval Japan.  They were, rather, supplementary weapons, analogous to the sidearms worn by modern soldiers.  While they were sometimes employed in combat, they were used far more often in street fights, robberies, assassinations and other (off-battlefield) civil disturbances."

* Art of the samurai 2009 p120 (Kazutoshi Harada, "History of the Japanese sword" p117-191)
"This period ... witnessed the single greatest change in the form of the Japanese sword: the transformation from the tachi to the type of sword known as uchigatana.  Since the Heian period, samurai had traditionally carried their swords in mountings suspended from the waist with cords, with the cutting edge of the sword facing down.  Beginning about the middle of the fifteenth century, they started to wear their swords thrust through the belt at the waist, with the cutting edge facing up.  At first only the lower classes of samurai wore their swords in this fashion, but gradually higher classes of samurai came to follow suit."  

* Art of the samurai 2009 p174 (Kazutoshi Harada, "History of the Japanese sword" p117-191)
"During the early Muromachi period, it was still customary to carry swords in the tachi style: suspended from the waist with the cutting edge facing down.  Beginning about the middle of the period it became fashionable to wear swords of about 60 centimeters in length thrust through the belt, with the cutting edge facing up.  Many wakizashi, or short swords -- between 30 and 60 centimeters in length -- were produced at that time."

* Art of the samurai 2009 p22-23 (Ogawa Morihiro, "The spirit of the samurai" p3-35)
"The shape of the tachi of the early Muromachi period is at first glance much like that of the tachi made during the middle Kamakura period, but some were also made in the Nanbokuchō style ....  Gradually, this type of sword was replaced in Muromachi times by the shinogi-zukuri uchigatana of about 67 centimeters (263/8 inches) in length; also ... many Kamakura tachi were cut down to make uchigatana.  These changes reflect a transition from fighting on horseback wearing ō-yoroi  armor and carrying a tachi suspended from the waist to fighting on foot in hand-to-hand combat.  The uchigatana is thought to have been much used in battle, together with the yari and the naginata. ... From this period onward, shinogi-zukuri and hira-zukuri wakizashi blades were frequently worn tucked into the belt."

* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/Larocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson p160 (Victor Harris, "Japanese swords" p148-171)
"The tachi of the early part of the fifteenth century were similar in shape to those of the middle Kamakura period.  But in the middle and later part of the Muromachi period swords acquired a characteristically deep saka-zori or curve in the upper part of the blade.  This improved cutting efficiency and appears on swords of all lengths.  The uchigatana ('hitting sword'), a weapon about 24 ins/60 cm long and wielded with one hand, also became popular.  This was carried edge uppermost, thrust through the belt.  In addition to the standard shinogi-zukuri section blade, a new blade section known as oroshemune was developed.  This echoed, in exaggerated form, the high shinogi of the old Yamato style and was specially designed for cutting through flesh and bones, its sloping shape offering less friction during the cutting. ...
    ​"The wearing of a pair of swords, or daisho, became fashionable during the Muromachi period.  The katana, or long sword, and the wakizashi, or shorter companion sword, were worn out of doors.  Indoors, the wakizashi was worn at all times and kept by the bed at night.  The samurai lived inseparable from his sword, his most valued possession.  He walked armed every day of his life, sat armed at the table, and went armed to bed."

* Art of the samurai 2009 p121 (Kazutoshi Harada, "History of the Japanese sword" p117-191)
"Although in general the newest or latest forms of weapons are most desirable from a military standpoint, in the case of the Japanese sword, beginning in the fifteenth century, those blades made in the past by famous smiths came to be greatly valued for their rarity, beauty, and efficacy, and collections of treasured swords began to be assembled by daimyo and wealthier samurai.  The great Heian- and Kamakura-period swords were too long to be used in the style of combat prevalent in the second half of the sixteenth century, however, and it became necessary to shorten them to acceptable lengths.  To achieve this, older swords were sometimes cut down from the end of the tang (nakago) -- the portion that fits into the hilt -- and the length of the tang also was sometimes adjusted by filing down the bottom of the cutting edge and the back of the blade.  This process, called suriage, occurred mostly during the Momoyama period (mid- to late 16th century), but the oldest known example of such a sword is a suriage tachi by Shigetsugu of the Bitchū Aoe group, which was shortened in 1541, during the Muromachi period.  After being reduced from 75 to 68 centimeters, it is roughly the length of contemporary Muromachi-period swords such as those by Sukesada of Bizen and the Mino smiths."


* Withers 2010 p80
"The naginata polearm This was a common polearm used by Samurai warriors and is most commonly associated with the Kamakura and Muromachi Periods (1338-1573).  The naginata comprised a lacquered (sometimes inlaid with mother-of-pearl) wooden pole approximately 2m (6.5ft) in length.  Onto this was forged a curved blade in very much the same way as traditional katana blades -- and, indeed, many naginatas were actually mounted with recycled katana blades.  The blade, or nakago, of a naginata was secured onto the pole by a single peg, or mekugi."

* Sinclaire 2001 p110-111
"Naginata of the Muromachi period are not as large and impressive as those of the preceding Namboku-cho period, although they have a strong soki-zori (curvature at the point) and their long points give the impression of sharpness.  This configuration made them easier to use on the battlefield."


* Art of the samurai 2009 p22 (Ogawa Morihiro, "The spirit of the samurai" p3-35)
"Tantō were hira-zukuri in shape, not curved, and about 27 centimeters (105/8 inches) in length.  Superficially they are reminiscent of tantō made in the middle to late years of the Kamakura period."