Original Japanese WWII Army Officer Kyu-Gunto Sword with Tortoise Shell Grip & Scabbard
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 Army Officer Kyu-Gunto, complete with the original nickel-plated scabbard and a lovely Tortoise Shell Grip. This sword was produced prior to WWII or during the early war period, before the fittings were switched to aluminum, and construction simplified. The 25 1/4 inch long blade on this example is machine-made, with a fuller near the spine, and is fully nickel plated. This is well retained, with spots of oxidation, and little sign of wear. Overall length of the sword is 30 1/2 inches.
The hilt is an ornate cast brass example, with lovely cherry blossom and other floral motifs on the back strap. The metal originally fully gilt, and it still retains this very well, with wear in the expected areas. It has the standard 10-petal Cherry Blossom emblem jutting out from the back strap on both sides, indicating Imperial Japanese Army use. It has the standard European-style "D" guard, as well as a very nice Tortoise Shell grip, with the original brass wire binding fully intact. There only a bit of play in the fittings, making this a great example.
The scabbard (saya) is nickel-plated steel, which is mostly intact, with some wear on the drag area as well as small areas of missing plating. It is a very simple design scabbard, patterned after European swords of the 19th century. The hanging ring is still present and has retained the plating well. The only real issue is a den t and slight bend on the left side of the scabbard, which does not interfere with sheathing the blade.
Overall this is a really nice example of this type of sword, and was definitely an upmarket version. This would make a worthy addition to any Japanese military collection. Ready to display!
Overall length: 30 1/4”
Blade length: 25 1/4”
Hand guard: 4” width x 5” length
Scabbard length: 28 3/4”
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