Original WWII Japanese Navy Officer P1937 Kai-Gunto Handmade Katana by YOSHISHIGE with Scabbard - dated 1943
Original Item: Only One Available. Purchased recently at a large military show, this is a very nice wartime High Grade Japanese Naval officer Katana in the Pattern 1937 Kai-Gunto setting. A Kai-Guntō (海軍刀, naval sword) is a weapon and symbol of rank used by the Imperial Japanese Navy during the WWII Period. This is a very nice example, and features a traditionally made and maker signed blade, something we rarely see in Naval fittings.
The blade on this example was hand forged in the traditional manner, and the tang of the blade is signed (Mei) with the characters 吉 次, which are read YOSHISHIGE. This smith's real name was 小見山 良造 - Komiyama Ryozo, and their name appears in the Seki Tanrensho Booklet printed in 1939. Yoshishige was active during the Showa Period and worked at Seki arsenal in Gifu, Mino Province (美濃国), and is stamped 関 (SEKI) on the tang. This smith look to have made both arsenal forged and traditional blades. We have confirmed the signature (Oshigata) with other examples of his work.
The other side of the tang bears the date when the blade was produced, in the standard long form indicating years into the current emperor's reign: 昭 和 十 八 年. This would be read: SHOWA (current reigning emperor) Juu-Hachi Nen (18th year of reign - 1943).
The blade is handmade and was expertly crafted by a sword maker, which is indicated by a few tell-tale characteristics that include:
- Hole in the tang is punched and not drilled.
- Visible temper line ("hamon") with crystallization visible (Nie and Nioi)
- Blade is signed on the tang by the maker ("Mei") and dated
- Blade has a proper geometric Yokote at the tip (kissaki) with a Boshi (tip temper line)
The blade is very good condition, with no dents or chips except for a small bend at the very tip of the blade. Polish is in good good shape, though the blade looks to have been cleaned multiple times with traditional Uchiko powder, made from the finest grit polishing stones. This has made some aspects of the blade faint, and left "swirl marks" in areas. Blade length is 24 7/8 inches and overall length 35 3/4 inches. It features a Futsu 普通 (regular) shaped Nakago (Tang) with a Haagari (asymmetrical rounded) nakago-jiri (tang tip).
Unlike most Kai-Gunto swords we see, this blade of this example was traditionally made, complete with a vibrant temper line (hamon), visible along the entire edge of the blade. The shape is a very attractive GUNOME MIDARE (irregular zig zag) with Just a bit of YAHAZU (notched) aspects at the points. There is visible NIE crystallization at the edge of the temper line, as well as the correct NIOI cloudiness in the hamon. There are also some ASHI, which are streaks of NIOI in the hamon running towards the edge. The kissaki (tip) shows a crisp yokote with visible Boshi (tip temper line), which is the OOMARU (large turn back) type.
Japanese Kai-Gunto naval officers swords are somewhat rare, given that they usually went down with the ships. This particular example is definitely high grade, with a hand made blade, and excellent fittings.
It has a heavy round tsuba (cross guard), with 4 Seppa (spacers) and two O-Seppa (Large spacers) around the tsuba that are large and highly stylized, correct for the Kai-Gunto pattern. All of these are non-magnetic, with the tsuba and O-seppa being made from blacked copper. The tsuka (handle) has two gold highlighted Cherry-Blossom menuki (grip decorations), and a nice iron Kabuto-Gane (End Cap). There is a single wooden securing peg still present, which looks to be a replacement. The grip has black stingray skin (Sa-Me) under the complete brown colored Ito (cloth binding) with a fine brass decorative collar (fuchi).
Condition of the blade, scabbard and fittings indicates that this katana did see service during the war. The grip wrapping shows a lot of dirt and oil worked into the wrappings, and there is dirt and some grime around the end of the handle as well. As typical of the pattern, Cherry Blossom motifs appear on many of the fittings. The handle is tight to the blade, with secure spacers and no wobble in the tsuba. This set of fittings (koshirae) has 六 六 (6 6) stamped on tsuba, O-seppa, Seppa, and inside of fuchi. This indicates they were made to fit this specific blade. The end of Tsuka and inside saya are worn and dirty, so we cannot see any markings.
The Wood scabbard (saya) is looks to possibly have at one point had a wrapping, but now it has a very interesting black textured finish, which we have not really seen on a Kai-Gunto scabbard before. Both hanger rings are still present, and the fittings still show much of the original plating, making this a really nice example of a high grade scabbard.
Really a nice example of an Imperial Japanese Navy Kai-Gunto, handmade by a known smith and complete with its original scabbard. These are getting hard to find in any condition.
Blade Length: 24 7/8"
Blade Style: Katana
Overall length: 35 3/4“
It has been over one thousand years ago that the art of making swords appeared in Japan. The swordsmiths of the time may not have known it but they were creating a legendary sword. The Samurai sword has seen combat in many battlefields. From the early days of the Samurai warrior to the fierce battles in the South Pacific during WWII.
Each hand-made Samurai sword is unique because it is forged from steel stock. A tremendous amount of work is dedicated to creating these pieces. They were an instrument of war as much as a beautiful artifact to adorn a room.
The Samurai sword has grown to be one of the most highly desired military antiques.
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