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A Japanese Officer's Sword From WW2 (Katana)

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Subject :A Japanese Officer's Sword from WW2 (Katana)
Published By :
Location :
Estimated Year : 1941
Media Type : Artifact
Source : Guan Hoe Company, Ipoh
Remark :

This sword came to us as a relic of the Japanese invasion and occupation of Malaya in 1941. It is reminiscent of the traditional Samurai sword but is not intended for anything other than ceremonial. It was very dirty and at first sight it met all the correct attributes – brown painted steel scabbard with wooden lining, double-handed hilt with stingray skin and correct length of blade. However on cleaning a number of oddities became apparent:

  • The hilt has leather binding rather than silk.
  • The brass fittings on both sword and scabbard are not traditional Japanese.
  • The blade soes not carry a signature or military emblem.
  • There is added writing on both blade and scabbard which is not Japanese or Korean, but may be Chines in an old font. This contains a four-leaved flower, rather than the five-leaves cherry blossom.

 Wiki tells us:

“During the Meiji Period, the samurai class was gradually disbanded, and the Haitōrei Edict in 1876 forbade the carrying of swords in public except for certain individuals such as former samurai lords (daimyo), the military and police. Skilled swordsmiths had trouble making a living during this period as Japan modernized its military and many swordsmiths started making other items such as cutlery. Military action by Japan in China and Russia during the Meiji period helped revive the manufacture of swords and in the Shōwa Period(1926-1989) before and during World War II swords were once again produced on a large scale.

During the pre-World War II military build-up, and throughout the war, all Japanese officers were required to wear a sword. Traditionally made swords were produced during this period, but in order to supply such large numbers of swords, blacksmiths with little or no knowledge of traditional Japanese sword manufacture were recruited. In addition, supplies of the Japanese steel (tamahagane) used for swordmaking were limited, so several other types of steel were also used. Quicker methods of forging were also used, such as the use of power hammers, and quenching the blade in oil, rather than hand forging and water. The non-traditionally made swords from this period are called shōwatō, after the regnal name of the Emperor Hirohito, and in 1937, the Japanese government started requiring the use of special stamps on the tang (nakago) to distinguish these swords from traditionally made swords. During this period of war, older antique swords were remounted for use in military mounts. Presently, in Japan, shōwatō are not considered to be "true" Japanese swords, and they can be confiscated. Outside Japan, however, they are collected as historical artifacts.”

and

“Today, both the Korean jingum and Japanese katana share striking similarities in terms of design, material of construction (steel is preferred), and craftsmanship. Furthermore, they are both prized in swordsmanship competitions due to their superior level of quality.

In terms of differences, however, the Korean jingum is typically crafted with a thinner and wider blade than its katana counterpart. As such, many practitioners say the jingum feels lighter than a katana. This doesn't apply to all Korean Jingums, however. Some are heavier with thicker blades than katanas; it all depends on the swordsmith and how he or she crafted it.”

This sword in our collection is a mystery. It is definitely old and of Katana style but not Japanese or Korean. It must have an interesting background which, to date, we have not discovered.

Filename : 20171204-007