Original Japanese WWII Army Officer Kyu-Gunto Sword with Asano Clan Crest and Nickel-Plated Scabbard in Cover
Original Item: Only One Available. The first standard sword of the Japanese military was known as the kyu gunto (旧軍刀, old military sword). Murata Tsuneyoshi (1838-1921), a Japanese general who previously made guns, started making what was probably the first mass-produced substitute for traditionally made samurai swords. These swords are referred to as "Murata-to" and they were used in both the Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905).
The kyu gunto was used from 1875 until 1934, it closely resembled European and American swords of the time, with a wraparound hand guard (also known as a D-Guard) and chrome plated scabbard (saya), the steel scabbard is said to have been introduced around 1900.
Prior to 1945, many kyū guntō were distributed to commissioned officers to fill a demand for swords to Japan's expanding military officer classes. To distinguish individuality, wealth or craftsmanship, many swords were produced in batches as small as 1–25 to maintain the legacy of sword culture. Styles varied greatly, with inspirations drawn from swords of early periods, familial crests, and experimental artistic forms that the Meiji Restoration period had begun to introduce. Some examples have included European style silverworking, jade, cloisonné, or metalwork and paint for artistic relief.
Kyu-gunto swords, also called Russo-Japanese swords, were used by Army, Cavalry and Naval officers during the Russo-Japanese War and WWII. This style of mounting was used from 1883 until 1945. Like shin-gunto, a great variety of quality in both blades, traditional and machine made, and mounts is seen in kyu-gunto swords. Many variations are found in the scabbards of kyu-gunto swords including chromed metal, lacquered wood or leather covered wood with brass fixtures. Any style scabbard may have a leather field cover. Those swords with elongated hilts and mekugi (peg for holding blade into hilt) are more likely to have hand forged blades, while the swords lacking mekugi generally are machine made and may have chromed blades. The backstraps of naval kyu-gunto swords have no side pieces while army kyu-gunto and colonial swords have side pieces with various emblems on the backstrap.
This is a nice example of an high grade Army Officer Kyu-Gunto, complete with the original nickel-plated scabbard with a fitted leather cover. This sword was produced prior to WWII or during the early war period, before the fittings were switched to aluminum, and construction simplified. The 27 1/2 inch long blade on this example is machine-made, with a fuller near the spine and standard machine polish. It has a faux hamon (temper line), and a few small dents on the edge. Aside from a few areas of light staining, it is in very good condition. Overall length of the sword is 35 1/2 inches.
The hilt is an ornate cast brass example, with very nice pebbling on the back strap and collar. The metal was one gilt, but this has worn away to a nice yellowed patina in most areas. It has the standard Cherry Blossom emblem jutting out from the back strap, indicating Imperial Japanese Army use. It has the standard European-style "D" guard, as well as a very nice stingray skin (same) grip, with the original brass wire binding mostly intact. The guard does not fold down, as some do, and has a functional scabbard lock. There is a little bit of play in the fittings, due to age and use.
The officer who owned this katana also was from the well-known Asano clan (淺野氏 Asano-shi), whose mon (family crest) is displayed on the handle back strap near the cross pin. It looks to be of nickel or silver, with a gilt background, and shows two hawk feathers crossed at a right angle. It is most likely soldered on. The Asano clan was a prominent Japanese clan claiming descent from Minamoto clan, one of the four great clans of feudal Japan. The Asano were the daimyo (feudal lords) of the Hiroshima Domain at the time that the han system was abolished as part of the Meiji Restoration in 1871, and Asano Nagakoto was one of the last Daimyo alive, living until 1937. Although no longer feudal lords, the Asano family became part of the Kazoku (華族, "Magnificent/Exalted lineage"), or Japanese peerage at the level of Marquess (侯爵 kōshaku), and still held significant power.
The scabbard (saya) is nickel-plated steel, which is mostly intact in the areas that we can see. It is a very simple design scabbard, patterned after European swords of the 19th century. The hanging ring is present, though it has lost most of the plating. It locks correctly onto the hilt. The scabbard is contained in a tight-fitting leather scabbard cover, which has shrunken somewhat, so it cannot be removed. The stitching is missing on the 4 inches nearest the two ends. It has a lovely brown leather color ans is definitely high quality, possibly deerskin.
Overall this is a really nice example of this type of sword, and was definitely an upmarket version, owned by a member of a famous Samurai clan. This would make a worthy addition to any Japanese military collection. Ready to display!
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