Original WWII Japanese Type 94 Shin-Gunto Katana Sword with 1529 Dated Blade by NORIMITSU & Scabbard
Original Item: One of a Kind. Recently purchased from a private collector, this is a fantastic USGI Bring-Back high grade Japanese officer Katana in the Type 94 Shin-Gunto (九四式軍刀 kyūyon-shiki guntō) setting. 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. This is the earlier pattern used, with more ornate and complicated aspects compared to the later type 98 fittings.
The tang of the blade is signed by the maker (mei) with 備 州 長 船 則 光 - BISHU OSAFUNE NORIMITSU, which basically means that the smith named Norimitsu of the Osafune School made this sword in Bishu, or Bizen Province. This is a province with a long history of legendary schools of Japanese swordsmithing. Those who forged swords in the Bizen province, today known as Okayama prefecture, at the end of the Muromachi Period (1492-1569 A.D) are called Matsu Bizen. There were multiple generations of smiths in the Osafune school using this name, and it is a name that many highly rated smiths have used.
The other side of the blade is marked with a date of 1529. It is written in the standard long form indicating years into the current era of Japanese history: 享 禄 二 年 八 月 日. This would be read: Kyōroku ( Japanese Era Name) Ni Nen (2nd year of era - 1529) Hachi-Gatsu (8th Month). There are two possible Norimitsu smiths that used this signature and worked in this era, both of which are highly rated by the Toko Taikan, one at ¥4.5M and the other at ¥5.5M.
This also means that this sword dates from the Muromachi period (室町時代 Muromachi jidai) of 1336 to 1573, most likely the mid to late portion. This is part of the period of Japanese swordmaking known as Kotō (古刀"old swords"), the the type of swords that later smiths treated as the goal they needed to achieve.
This example has certainly been remounted several times, as was common for Japanese blades. This has made the file marks (yasurime) on the tang somewhat faint, and is also why there are two holes in the tang. It has a lovely patina, only present on blades that are hundreds of years old.
The blade is handmade and was expertly crafted by a sword maker, which is indicated by a few tell-tale characteristics that include:
- Holes in the tang are punched and not drilled.
- Visible temper line ("hamon") with crystallization visible (Nie and Nioi).
- Blade is signed on the tang by the maker ("Mei") as well as dated ("Nengo")
- Blade has a geometric Yokote at the tip (kissaki) with a Boshi (tip temper line).
- Blade has grain (hada) visible in the body (ha).
- Blade wounds (kizu) or lamination artifacts are present on the blade. Both ware (lamination lines) and fukure (carbon pits) are visible.
Offered in very good condition, the blade is still quite sharp and looks great. There are a few small bends and nicks on the main edge, as well as a dent on the very tip of the blade. Overall the polish is very good, though it definitely has seen light cleaning since the last polish, which has made some aspects of the blade faint. There are also a few small areas light staining. The sword is relatively long and heavy compared to others, with a blade length of approximately 28 1/4 inches and overall length of 38 1/2 inches. The katana has a handmade blade with a Futsu 普通 (regular) Nakago (tang) with a Naagari (asymmetrical rounded) nakago-jiri (tang tip).
The temper line is easily visible, and is a very attractive and active HAKO-MIDARE (Box Shaped with Irregularities), a type that we do not see often. TOURAN (billowing) style. Along the transition there are clear NIE crystals visible, with cloudy areas of NIOI in the body of the hamon. The tip temper line (boshi) is still partly visible, and looks to be a rare JIZOU (Buddha's Head) shape. The YOKOTE (transition to the tip) is faintly visible, and it has a proper geometric KISSAKI (tip). The body of the blade has clear hada (grain), which is of the MASAME (Straight) pattern. We can see some blade wounds (KIZU) such as WARE (lamination lines) and FUKURE (Carbon pits).This is really a nice blade, with lots of aspects to enjoy.
The blade mountings are the classic early / pre WWII era High grade Type 94 Army Shin-Gunto style, brass with gilt accents. The rounded perforated "quince" (MOKKO GATA) shaped tsuba (cross guard) indicates it was made for a higher rank officer. The tsuka (handle) has brass Imperial Army cherry blossom menuki (grip decorations), and a nice Kabuto-Gane (Pommel Cap), though it is loose. 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 brass Seppa (spacers) around the cross guard to keep the fit tight, though it is somewhat loose due to wear. The tsuba and seppa are all inlet for the scabbard lock, which is still present though worn and not functional. The blade collar (habaki) is gilt copper, and is the usual type seen with WWII era fittings. We noted that all of the Seppa are marked 67, while the Fuchi and Blade lock are marked 87, so some components may have been replaced during service.
The handle has an excellent stingray skin (Sa-Me) grip, with the correct Ito (cloth binding), which shows light wear, and looks to have come loose at the bottom once, so it is now not properly aligned anymore. It could be re-wrapped but it is part of the swords history, so we left it intact. There is no metal or rope loop through the kabuto-gane end fitting. The mekugi (peg) is a recent replacement.
The Scabbard (saya) is steel over wood, and in very good condition, with much of the original paint intact. There is definitely sign of use however, with some oxidation where the paint has worn. It is lightly textured paint with a red primer coat, correct for a type 94 scabbard. As is correct for a type 94 scabbard, hanger ring can unscrew from the fitting, and there is a rosette that is a separate piece, which are often lost. The top fitting is inlet for a scabbard lock, which unfortunately is worn and doesn't function. There are a few dents near the bottom, but no catastrophic damage.
A fantastic Japanese 16th Century Handmade blade by a highly regarded maker, put into high grade Type 94 Shin-gunto fittings, most likely for a high ranking officer. This is a real USGI bring-back from WWII, ready to display and cherish!
Blade Length: 28 1/4"
Blade Shape: Shinogi Zukuri
Overall length: 39 5/8“
Scabbard Length: 30 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 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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