We conclude the chapter on sugata with the changes in the shapes of wakizashi.
1.32 Muromachi period (1394-1572)
The “typical” wakizashi as we know it, i.e. in shinogi-zukuri and showing about the same proportions as a katana, did not appear before the Muromachi period and shinogi-zukuri wakizashi remain very rare until the mid-Muromachi period as in early Muromachi times, the hira-zukuri wakizashi was prevailing. The Muromachi gave anyway rise to many different wakizashi forms: shinogi-zukuri wakizashi with a nagasa of 45~55 cm, a noticeable taper, a shallow sori with a tendency towards sakizori, and a chû-kissaki; hira-zukuri wakizashi with the about the same nagasa and with a noticeable sakizori; and wakizashi in shôbu-zukuri and unokubi-zukuri which usually stay under 50 cm in length. Virtually every Muromachi-era school and smith made wakizashi and it is difficult to forward a name being representative for a certain sugata. Also we must not forget that shinogi-zukuri blades with a nagasa of just a little under 2 shaku (60.6 cm) from before the early Edo period were intended as uchigatana or katata-uchi and are only today – because of their length – classified as wakizashi.
Picture 32: different wakizashi styles from the Muromachi period (from left to right): mei “Morimitsu” (盛光), Ôei-Bizen, nagasa 52.9 cm mei “Yoshisuke” (義助), Shimada, 2nd generation, nagasa 44.2 cm, sori 1.2 cm mei “Bizen no Kuni-jû Osafune Gorôzaemon Kiyomitsu” (備前国住長船五郎左衛門 清光), dated Tenbun eight (天文, 1539), nagasa 51.8 cm, sori 1.2 cm mei “Kanemune” (兼宗), Sue-Seki, around Tenbun (天文, 1532-1555), shôbu-zukuri, nagasa 52.1 cm, sori 1.2 cm
1.33 Momoyama to early Edo period (1572-1624)
With the Nanbokuchô revival trend of Momoyama times, there were still quite many hira-zukuri wakizashi and hira-zukuri ko-wakizashi made. That means the classic shinogi-zukuri wakizashi did not replace them in terms of quantity yet. But of course an increasing number of shinogi-zukuri wakizashi can be seen from about Tenshô (天正, 1573-1592) onwards.
Picture 33: wakizashi from the Momoyama to early Edo period (from left to right): mei “Mutsu no Kami Daidô” (陸奥守大道), dated Tenshô 18 (天正, 1590), nagasa 43.9 cm, sori 0.3 cm mei “Bushû Shitahara-jû Terushige saku” (武州下原住照重作), 2nd generation, around Tenshô, nagasa 44.5 cm, sori 0.8 cm mei “Kanenobu saku” (兼信作), 1st generation, Kan´ei (寛永, 1624-1644), nagasa 54.0 cm, sori 1.2 cm mei “Fuyuhiro saku” (冬広作), around Kan´ei (寛永, 1624-1644), nagasa 46.2 cm, sori 1.5 cm
1.34 Advanced early Edo period (1652-1688)
Wakizashi from that time feature like their katana counterparts a Kanbun-shintô-sugata, that means they have a nagasa of about 45~50 cm, taper noticeably, and end in a compact chû-kissaki. All schools of that time made such wakizashi and it is hard to name any representative smith.
Picture 34: wakizashi from the advanced early Edo period (from left to right): mei “Higo no Kami Kuniyasu” (肥後守国康), nagasa 54.8 cm, sori 0.6 cm mei “Echizen no Kami Minamoto Sukehiro” (越前守源助広), 2nd generation, nagasa 45.4 cm, sori 0.6 cm mei “Nagasone Okisato Nyûdô Kotetsu” (長曽祢興里入道乕徹), nagasa 45.4 cm, sori 1.0 cm mei “Nagasone Okisato Nyûdô Kotetsu” (長曽祢興里入道乕徹), nagasa 49.8 cm, sori 0.8 cm
Certain renowned master smiths from the advanced early Edo period also made some flamboyant wakizashi. These were mostly made on special orders and are wide and impressive, that means they don´t follow the then Kanbun-shintô-sugata, and usually show elaborate horimono. Representative for this trend was for example Kotetsu.
Picture 35: elaborate wakizashi from the advanced early Edo period (from left to right): mei “Dôsaku kore o horu – Nagasone Okisato Kotetsu Nyûdô” (同作彫之・長曽祢興里古鉄入道), nagasa 49.2 cm, sori 1.2 cm mei “Nagasone Okisato Kotetsu Nyûdô” (長曽祢興里虎徹入道), nagasa 47.8 cm, sori 1.0 cm (please note that this blade was mirrored due to reasons of uniformity in depiction in this kantei series)
1.35 Mid-Edo period (1688-1781)
Here virtually the same applies as to the changes in long swords, that is, the Kanbun-shintô-sugata was given up in favor of an again more moderate sugata, the so-called Genroku-shintô-sugata. In other words, wakizashi curve more, show a harmonious taper, and end in a chû-kissaki. And this sugata was more or less kept unchangedly until kotô swords were revived in the late Edo period.
Picture 36: wakizashi from the mid-Edo period (from left to right): mei "Awataguchi Ômi no Kami Tadatsuna" (粟田口近江守忠綱), nagasa 51.8 cm, sori 1.8 cm mei "Sakakura Gonnoshin Terukane" (坂倉言之進照包) nagasa 58.3 cm, sori 1.4 cm
1.36 Late Edo to early Meiji period (1781-1876)
Sword production declined significantly with the transition to the 18th century but was on the one hand revived by Suishinshi Masahide and was on the other hand again stimulated by the turmoils of the bakumatsu era. Thus also wakizashi appear in larger numbers from around Tenpô (天保, 1830-1844) onwards. Again we see the same trend to large mid-Nanbokuchô shapes in the bakumatsu era but with a thicker kasane. As so many different wakizashi were made at that time, it is hard to name any representative school or smith for specific interpretations but famous is the Kiyomaro school for their magnificent short swords which are often modelled on shortened nagamaki blades.
Picture 37: various wakizashi interpretations from the late Edo and early Meiji period (from left to right): mei “Suishin-rōō Amahide + kaō” (水心老翁天秀), dated Bunsei two (文政, 1819), nagasa 45.4 cm, sori 1.2 cm mei “Minamoto Masayuki” (源正行), dated Kôka two (弘化, 1845), early name of Kiyomaro, nagasa 45.9 cm, sori 1.2 cm mei “Chôunsai Tsunatoshi” (長運斎綱俊), dated Tenpô eleven (天保, 1840), nagasa 46.2 cm, sori 1.0 cm mei “Ôshû Shirakawa-shin Tegarayama Masashige” (奥州白川臣手柄山正繁), dated Kansei ten (寛政, 1798), nagasa 45.8 cm, sori 1.0 cm
And last but not least, the well-known brief overview of the chronological changes in sugata: