Original WWII Japanese Army Officer Type 98 Shin-Gunto Wakizashi Short Sword by AMAHIDE with Scabbard
Original Item: One of a Kind. Recently purchased at large military show, this is a very nice USGI Bring-Back wartime production Japanese officer wakizashi short sword in the Type 98 Shin-Gunto (九八式軍刀 kyūhachi-shiki guntō) setting. These type of fittings (koshirae) are slightly simplified compared to the earlier Type 94. The blade tang is signed by the maker, and appears to be handmade in the traditional fashion. A Shin-Guntō (新軍刀, new military sword) is a weapon and symbol of rank used by the Imperial Japanese Army between the years of 1935 and 1945.
With a blade 21 5/8 inches in length, this example is technically a wakizashi 脇差, "side inserted sword". It is however very close to Katana length, and has the same Shinogi-Zukuri blade shape seen on a Katana, so it would be considered an O-Wakizashi (大>脇差 or "large side inserted sword").
The blade on this example was hand forged, and the tang of the blade is signed (Mei) with the characters 一 文 字 天 秀 鍛 之, read as ICHIMONJI AMAHIDE KITAU KORE. This roughly translates to "Amahide Forged This", with "Ichimonji" being an honorific referring to the Fukuoka Ichimonji school of Bizen province, a legendary school. Research indicates that smith's real name was 福本 秀吉 - Fukumoto Hideyoshi, and their name appears in the Seki Tanrensho Booklet printed in 1939. Their teacher is listed as Kanenaga.
Amahide was active during the Showa Period and worked at Seki arsenal in Gifu, Mino Province (美濃国). They look to have made both arsenal forged and traditional blades. We have confirmed the signature (Oshigata) with other examples of his work. In 1942, Kurihara Hikosaburo ranked about 400 Showa Era smiths, and graded them into 7 different levels with 1 being the highest. Amahide is rated at level 5, 中作 (CHU SAKU or Medium work) = 上工の列 (Joko no Retsu or Good Work). Blades by this smith are very well made compared to most made at Seki Arsenal, many of whom were not even rated.
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").
- Blade has a faint Boshi (tip temper line)
- Blade has visible grain "hada" in the body of the blade by the edge (ji)
Offered in very good condition, the blade is still quite sharp, with no nicks or other damage to the edge, so care should be taken while handling. The polish on the glade has however degraded and gotten stained from handling and use, which has made the aspects of the blade difficult to see. The handmade blade has a length of approximately 21 5/8 inches and overall length of 32 1/4 inches. It has a futsu 普通 (regular) Nakago with a Naagari (asymmetrical rounded) nakago-jiri (tang tip).
The temper line is still mostly clear, and is of the SUGUHA (straight) shape, with just a bit of waviness. There are still NIE crystals visible at the transition, and some of the NIOI cloudiness, with some internal activity. The tip temper line (boshi) is visible, but faint, so we cannot see what shape it is. The yokote unfortunately completely removed, and the blade has a proper geometric kissaki (tip). The blade body (JI) shows some grain (hada), which is the straight (masame) type.
The blade mountings are the classic later WWII era Type 98 Army Shin-Gunto style, brass with gilt accents. Rounded "quince" shaped (mokko gata) tsuba (cross guard) with brass Imperial Army cherry blossom menuki (grip decoration), and a nice Kabuto-Gane (Pommel Cap). The cross guard and pommel cap have matching cherry blossom motifs, which are also found on the scabbard fittings, and the fuchi (grip collar). There are 4 Seppa (spacers) around the cross guard to keep the fit tight. The blade collar (habaki) is brass, and is the standard shape usually seen on WWII production blades.
The handle (tsuka) has a very nice stingray skin (Sa-Me) grip, with the correct brown Ito (cloth binding). The wrapping does show significant staining and wear from service, so this is definitely a sword that saw service during the war. The original metal loop is still present on the end of the tsuka, attached through the kabuto-gane. There is a single wooden securing peg (mekugi) still present, which is a post war replacement.
The scabbard is black enamel lacquer over wood, which we often see under a leather field cover, so it is possible that this example had one at one point. The leather strap around the handle suggests that originally there was a leather strap that went through the crossguard and snapped onto the cover. This is all now missing, as is a good amount of the paint. We assume that the original scabbard was lost, and this is a field replacement.
A very nice service used handmade Japanese Type 98 Shin-gunto wakizashi by a known rated maker! This is a real USGI bring-back from WWII, ready to display and cherish!
Blade Length: 21 5/8"
Blade Shape: Shinogi-Zukuri
Overall length: 32 1/4“
Scabbard Length: 27 1/4"
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 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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