Original WWII Japanese Army Officer Katana Sword with Ancient 14th/15th Century Blade by NAMINOHIRA YASUMITSU - Included Research

Item Description

Original Item: One of a Kind. Purchased directly from a private collection in the UK, this is a superb example of a Japanese WW2 Army Officer's Shin-Gunto sword, with a family blade that we believe to be close to 600 years old. Included is the original capture tag, as well as pertinent research regarding the writing on both the signature and the tang of the blade. It was a common practice for swords to be passwed down for generations, particularly ones that were of high quality. These would be re-polished and re-fit numerous times, as steel was precious and swords were expensive. This continued up into WWII, which is how this blade found it's way into standard WWII "Shin-Gunto" fittings, with a locking scabbard.

The blade on this sword is quite honestly one of the best and most unique we have ever seen. The age would indicate that it was most likely was originally made as an Uchigatana, a forerunner of the modern Katana derived from the Tachi longsword. These became popular with samurai during the Muromachi period (室町時代 Muromachi jidai), which extended from from approximately 1336 to 1573. They were worn Edge-up, like the Katana, so the Mei (signature) on this blade is in the correct location. These were always placed so they were on the outside of the blade, which was worn on the left side. It also has some beautiful artistic engravings in the body of the blade.

According to the information on the tang of the blade (signed 波平 安 光 作 - NAMINOHIRA YASUMITSU SAKU), this sword was made by Yasumitsu of the Naminohira School, which was a lineage of master swordmakers during the classic period of Japanese swordmaking. This particular member produced swords from 1394 to 1428, a relatively long career (34 years) for a swordsmith of that era.

Blades of this age are known as Kotō (古刀"old swords") and were made from around 900–1596. These are the swords that later swordmakers aspired to. Sadly much skill was lost during the Sengoku period (戦国時代 Sengoku Jidai, "Age of Warring States"; c. 1467 – c. 1603), which this sword was made towards the beginning of. By the end of this period, decades of producing high yield, low-quality blades, as well as economic/social hardship, had resulted in much skill being lost.

The blade is handmade and expertly crafted, indicated by a few tell tale characteristics that include:

- Single-hole tang.
- Artistic Engravings in the body of the blade (Horimono)
- Tang is signed by the maker (mei)
- Hole in the tang is punch not drilled. There is also wear around the hole, indicating great age.
-  Tang shows significant age and past removed rust and wear.
- Folded steel blade (fold lines are evident on the spine and body of blade)
- Clear grain (hada) on the blade, with lamination lines visible.
- Clear temper line (hamon) on the edge of the blade

Offered in excellent condition the blade is is very sharp and nick free. It has an excellent polish, which highlights the grain of the blade. The hamon is present and visible, and is of the midare (irregular) type. The kissaki is excellent, with a geometric yokote and clear boshi. This blade is more curved than most we have had, and has more of the curvature shape (sori) known as Koshi or bizen. This has the "waist", or deepest part of the curve, being closer to the machi, which is where the tang meets the actual cutting part of the blade. Blade length is approximately 26.5 inches, with an overall length of 37 1/4 inches. 

The blade mountings are the classic WW2 era Army style. Round brass tsuba (cross guard) is of the typical army type, with cherry blossom decorations. The fuchi (blade collar) is copper, and is of a style typical of much older blades.The tsuka (handle) has brass Imperial Army cherry blossom menuki (grip decoration), and a nice Kabuto-Gane (Pommel Cap), one securing peg still present, though it is broken in half. This can be easily replaced, but we felt it better to leave the original in place.

The cross guard and pommel cap have matching cherry blossom motifs, which are also found on the scabbard fittings. There are 4 Seppa (spacers) on each side of the cross guard to keep the fit tight. These are inleted for the scabbard lock. The parts are also all stamped 58 (even the scabbard lock pin), indicating that this entire set is intact and original to the blade setting.

The Tsuka (handle) has an excellent stingray Sa-Me (grip) with complete Ito (cloth binding), though the cloth is slightly stained from use. Attached to the pommel cap loop is a Brown and Blue colored Tassel. This signifies that this was carried by a "company grade" officer, which would be a Lieutenant or Captain rank.

The Scabbard (saya) is steel and in good condition, though it is missing about half of the original brown paint. There is little rust however, suggesting that the steel may have been galvanized (zinc plated). It matches and locks into the scabbard.

Completing this set are photocopies and translations of the capture tag and the blade signature, with translations and research information. Overall a great display piece with an incredible history. This is both a great collector and a great research opportunity.

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 multiple pieces of folded 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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