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Original WWII Japanese Type 94 Shin-Gunto Katana Sword with 18th Century Blade by HIDEKUNI & Field Grade Officer Tassel

Item Description

Original Item: One of a Kind. Recently purchased from a private collector, this is a very nice 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, and was made over 200 years ago during the Edo Period. It also has a battle worn red and brown Officer's Tassel, which indicates a "Field Grade" officer, which in the Imperial Japanese army were the 陸軍少佐 (Rikugun-Shōsa or Major), 陸軍中佐 (Rikugun-Chūsa or Lt. Col.), and 陸軍大佐 (Rikugun-Taisa or Colonel). The higher grade fittings and old blade definitely indicate this was for an officer of some importance, and possibly a samurai lineage.

The blade on this example was hand forged, and the tang of the blade is signed (Mei) with the characters 角 秀 國 , read as KAKU HIDEKUNI. This smith was active during the KANSEI (寛政) era, which lasted January 1789 through February 1801, and was based in IWASHIRO (岩代) province. They were a member of the large Suishinshi Masahide School of Japanese swordmaking, and are ranked 15 by Hawley, and ¥3M by Toko Taikan. They are not a well-known smith, but definitely held in some regard.

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").

- 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, with a slightly longer one on the kissaki, so this sword did see some level of use. Overall the polish is very good, though it definitely has seen cleaning since the last polish, which has made some aspects of the blade faint. There are also a few areas light staining. The sword is relatively long and heavy compared to others, with a blade length of approximately 27 1/2 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 Kuri-Jiri (rounded) nakago-jiri (tang tip). The two holes in the tang and lovely oxidized patina show that it has been refit several times. The temper line is easily visible, and is a very attractive and active TOURAN (billowing) style. Along the transition there are clear NIE crystals visible, with cloudy areas of NIOI in the body of the hamon. There is also a lot of internal activity, much more than we usually see, giving it an almost iridescent look.

The tip temper line (boshi) is still fully visible, and is the KOMARU (small turnback) type. The yokote is is still clear, and the blade has a proper geometric kissaki (tip). It is however very long, measuring almost 3 inches, quite long compared to the katana blades we usually see. The body of the blade has clear hada (grain), which is of the ITAME (wood grain) pattern. 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 is also a lot of the original browned finish with gilt highlights present, something we rarely see. There are 2 thick brass Seppa (spacers) around the cross guard to keep the fit tight. The tsuba and seppa are all inlet for the scabbard lock, which is still present and functional. The blade collar (habaki) is gilt copper, and is the usual type seen on Edo period blades.

The handle has an excellent stingray skin (Sa-Me) grip, with the correct Ito (cloth binding), which shows light wear. It also looks to be made of higher grade material, and the handle itself is wider than we usually see. When we received this katana, the tsuka was held in place by a pressed in brass mekugi, which research shows was used on some high grade officer katanas. We have removed this, which requires the use of a press, and it is included with the sword. A replacement was fashioned from some bamboo that we had on hand. There is no metal or rope loop through the kabuto-gane end fitting.

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 peppered oxidation where the paint has worn. It is also smooth paint, which was changed to textured when the Type 98 was introduced. It looks like it originally had the second hanger loop, but it was removed at some point. As is correct for a type 94 scabbard, hanger ring can unscrew from the fitting. There is usually a rosette that it holds in place, however that has been lost. The top fitting is inlet for a scabbard lock, which still works great. It does not have any major dents or other catastrophic damage.

A fantastic Japanese Edo Period Handmade blade by a known maker, put into high grade Type 94 Shin-gunto fittings for a Field Grade Army Officer. This is a real USGI bring-back from WWII, ready to display and cherish!

Blade Length: 27 1/2"
Blade Shape: Shinogi Zukuri
Overall length: 38 1/2
Scabbard Length: 31"

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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