Original WWII Japanese Type 98 Shin-Gunto Handmade Katana by KOJIMA KANENORI with Scabbard, Tassel & Capture Tag
Original Item: One of a Kind. Recently purchased at an estate sale, this is an excellent condition USGI Bring-Back wartime production high grade Japanese officer Katana in the Type 98 Shin-Gunto (九八式軍刀 kyūhachi-shiki guntō) setting. We rarely see Type 98s in such good condition! This is how they are "supposed" to look, without wear removing the gilt accents and browned finish on the brass. There is just a bit of period wear, so it did see some service, but it was not abused at all.
The Type 98 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. It also has a very nice rank tassel attached to the pommel, as well as a "capture tag" attached to the scabbard, which reads 大巳 正晴. This was the name of the person turning in the blade, and could be read as Ōmi Masaharu or Daimi Masaharu.
The blade on this example was hand forged, and the tang of the blade is signed (Mei) with the characters 濃 州 住 小 島 兼 則 謹 作, read as NOSHU JU KOJIMA KANENORI KIN SAKU. This basically translates to "Kojima Kanenori made this in Noshu (Mino) Province." Research indicates that this smith's real name was 小島 太郎 (Kojima Tarou), so in this case "Kojima" was their family name, and "Kananori" their "swordsmith name." We have examined other examples of their signature (Oshigata), and confirmed the style.
This smith is listed in Kurihara Hikosaburo's 1942 listing of Wartime Japanese swordsmiths (tosho). He reported about 400 gunto tosho's ranking at the Tosho Banzuke (刀匠番附), and classified these into 7 ranks. KANENORI is listed as a 中上作 (CHUJO SAKU) = 上工の上位 (Joko no Joi) level smith, which is the 4th rank out of 7, an "upper middle" level smith. Considering that most smiths were not even rated, this is quite a high ranking. KANENORI also appears also in the Seki Tanrensho Booklet printed in 1939, and they were active during the Showa Period and worked at Seki arsenal in Gifu, Mino Province (美濃国), who stamped the blade with the arsenal proof 関 (Seki) above the mei. There is also a painted number marking 五 四 九 四 - 5 4 9 4.
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") as well as dated.
- Blade has a proper geometric Yokote at the tip (kissaki) with a Boshi (tip temper line)
- Visible HADA (grain) in the body of the blade and lamination in the temper line.
Offered in excellent condition, the blade is still VERY sharp and looks great. There are no nicks on the edge that we can see, just some wear from the scabbard in areas, and a bit of a dent at the very tip of the blade. Overall the polish on the blade is great, with just a few small specks of oxidation staining, so the aspects of the blade are easily visible. Blade length is approximately 25 1/2 inches and overall length 37 inches. The katana has a handmade blade with a Futsu 普通 (regular) Nakago (tang) with Haagari (asymmetrical rounded) nakago-jiri (tang tip).
The blade has a proper kissaki (tip) with a clear yokote (division between body and tip) and boshi (tip temper line). The main edge Temper line (hamon) is fully visible, and is a very attractive YAHAZU MIDARE (irregular notched) shape. Along the transition there are clear NIE crystals visible, with cloudy areas of NIOI in the body of the hamon, and some nice activity. This includes ASHI, which are lines of NIOI running towards the edge. The body of the blade (JI) also shows hada (grain), which is the MASAME (straight) pattern. The tip temper line (boshi) is of visible, and is of the KOMARU (small turnback) shape. With the long delay for traditional togishi polishing, blades like this that are ready to display are definitely in demand.
The blade mountings (koshirae) are in very good condition, and are the classic "high grade" WWII era Type 98 Army Shin-Gunto style, browned brass with gilt accents. These include a perforated rounded "quince" shaped tsuba (cross guard), only seen on high grade fittings. There are also brass Imperial Army cherry blossom menuki (grip decorations), 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 6 Seppa (spacers) around the cross guard to keep the fit tight, and all are inleted for the scabbard lock, which is fully functional. The blade collar (habaki) looks to be the standard plated brass alloy.
The handle (tsuka) has an great Sa-Me (Stingray Skin) grip, which is fully intact. It has a complete dark brown Ito (cloth binding), which shows light staining and light wear. There is a single wooden securing peg (mekugi) still present, which looks to be original. Attached to the pommel cap loop is a Brown and Blue colored Tassel, which is in great lightly worn condition. This signifies that this was carried by a "company grade" officer, which would be a Lieutenant or Captain rank. It is in very good condition and totally correct.
The Scabbard (saya) is steel over wood, and in very good condition, with almost all of the original textured paint intact. It has only a few small scrapes with no denting we can see, and has the correct single hanger loop of the Type 98 style. The top fitting is inleted for the scabbard lock on the hilt, and the lock works correctly. The attached capture tag is in very good condition, with the writing fully legible.
An incredible handmade Japanese Type 98 Shin-gunto by a highly ranked maker, complete with a named capture tag and tassel! This is a real USGI bring-back from WWII, ready to display and cherish!
Blade Length: 25 1/2"
Blade Style: Katana
Overall length: 37“
Scabbard Length: 30"
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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