Original WWII Japanese Navy Officer P1937 Kai-Gunto Handmade Katana by TSUKAHARA KANETSUGU with Scabbard

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. Purchased recently at a 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. Overall condition of the blade and fittings indicates significant time in service, which is a rarity for a Kai-gunto. Most that we have had are close to unissued.

The blade on this example was hand forged in the traditional manner, and the tang of the blade is signed (Mei) with the characters 濃 州 住 塚 原 兼 次 謹 作 - NOSHU JU TSUKAHARA KANETSUGU KIN SAKU, or "TSUKAHARA KANETSUGU made this in Mino Province (Noshu)." Research indicates that this smith's real name was 塚原 次郎 (Tsukahara Jirou), so in this case "Tsukahara" was their family name, and "Kanetsugu" their "swordsmith name." We have seen many other smiths sign their swords in this fashion. Their name appears in the Seki Tanrensho Booklet printed in 1939. There is also Japanese numerals painted on the tang in yellow, which reads 八 三 〇 二, or 8 3 0 2.

Yoshinori was active during the Showa Period and worked at Seki arsenal in Gifu, Mino Province (美濃国), and is stamped (SEKI) on the tang. 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. Kaneyoshi 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")

- Lamination lines visible on the blade body.

Offered in good condition, the blade is still relatively sharp, but it definitely does look to have seen use during the war. There are a few small nicks and bends on the blade edge, as well as scuffs on the surface. Much of the surface shows evidence of past light surface oxidation, which was typical for a sword that saw service at sea. This was cleaned off, which has unfortunately degraded the polish and left a somewhat speckled look to the blade. The hamon is still visible, but only under the habaki (blade color) can the original polish be seen.

Blade length is 25 1/4 inches and overall length 36 inches. Unlike most Kai-Gunto swords we see, this example has a hand-made traditionally made blade, complete with a fully visible temper line (hamon). It features a Futsu 普通 (regular) shaped Nakago (Tang) with a Naagari (asymmetrical rounded) nakago-jiri (tang tip).

The blade has a true hamon (wave), or temper line, which is a SUGUHA (straight) type with just a bit of NOTARE (undulation) in the shape. It is somewhat hard to see in some areas, but holding the blade in the light shows it along the full length of the blade. There are places with some very visible NIE crystallization at the edge of the temper line, as well as the correct NIOI cloudiness in the hamon. Other aspects of the blade such as the boshi and yokote cannot be seen due to the polish being degraded, however the blade definitely has potential if brought to a trained togishi (Japanese sword polisher).

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 high quality fittings. It has a heavy round tsuba (cross guard), with 2 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 of non-magnetic copper, and were originally "blacked' but the finish has worn away on the O-Seppa and the edges of the Tsuba. There is also a leather washer for a scabbard lock, though the leather tab with a snap has unfortunately torn off. The O-seppa and Tsuba have a hole for it to pass through.

The tsuka (handle) has two brass Cherry-Blossom menuki (grip decorations), and a nice brass Kabuto-Gane (End Cap) with an intact brass loop. The pommel cap and fuchi (grip collar), also have matching cherry blossom motifs, which are also found on the scabbard fittings. There are very nice complete stingray (Sa-Me) grip panels under the complete black colored Ito (cloth binding), which shows service wear from use. There is a single wooden securing peg still present, which looks to be a post war replacement. The end of the tsuka has the handwritten numbers 8302 inside, which match the numbers painted on the blade tang, so this set of fittings (koshirae) was made for this specific blade.

The Wood scabbard (saya) is wrapped in lacquered sharkskin shagreen, and has all plated brass fittings, with some of the plating remaining. Both hanger rings are intact, though as often seen, the glue holding the mounts in place has degraded, so they are quite loose on the scabbard, and can be moved. The sharkskin wrapping looks like it had the lacquer coating degrade at some point, and then was covered with black enamel, so it cannot be seen clearly in many areas. We believe that it was at one time covered with a leather field cover, which in the humid ocean environment, probably hastened the degradation of the lacquer. Definitely some great history in this sword!

Really a great service worn example of a 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: 25 1/4"
Blade Style: Katana
Overall length: 36“
Scabbard Length: 28 1/2"

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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