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Attention Mantetsu Owners: A Survey


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5 hours ago, PNSSHOGUN said:

The original:

Wow John, you rank right up there with Kiipu as a Search Engine Wizard!

 

I agree.  The original fittings with matching numbers are now lost to history.  I admit there is the feeling among collectors that blades, especially the older ones, went through several sets of fittings over their lifespans, but to intentionally change a war piece for "sprucing it up" value for upping the resale value.... harumph! 

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On 8/12/2021 at 7:56 PM, Kiipu said:

 

Can you post a picture of the entire tang, either side, from top to bottom?  This is just to verify the number of mekugi-ana (tang holes).

Sorry for just now noticing your message. Here is an addition picture of the tang. The best I current have on my phone showing almost all of the tang. It only has one hole and I can provide a even better picture later if desired of the ENTIRE tang.

20210807_172434.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

So Bruce, following all the work you, Thomas, Trystan and Ohmura have done on Mantetsu, can we now assume the following .... 

!. Blades were manufactured by the Manchurian Railway Company, from their own puddled steel. 

2. Some blades were finished at the Nanman factory in China. 

3. The mune stamps were, for a better word, tracking numbers or production numbers, stamped in one or other factory in China. And the mei look all cut to a set style .

4. Finished blades were shipped to Japan for mounting, distribution and sale. This appears confirmed from orders and delivery information and documents. 

5. There is NO evidence of any Mantetsu/Koa Isshin blades being made in Japan.   

6. We know that during the war, blades were in short supply, and the Mantetsu/Koa Isshin solution was an "outsourcing" exercise. 

So the "light bulb" over the head moment for me was the realization that ALL the blades are made in China, and none in Japan! It would not surprise me either if puddled steel from the Manchurian Electric Furnace was sent to Japanese sword smiths as a substitute for the limited supply of traditional tamahagane.

I have examples of Mantetsu swords with Chinese Manchurian Railway Company stamps, as well as Nanman and Dairen stamps from 1938-1944. 

So without being too controversial, there are actually blades that are papered MADE IN CHINA. 

All this being said, the Mantetsu blades were highly praised and sought after by the Japanese Officers. 

I would be interested in comments on the above.    

 

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3 hours ago, IJASWORDS said:

I'm going to quote your post so that I can comment on each, and readers won't have to jump back and forth on each point.  And up front, just a small technical correction - The company's full name was South Manchurain Railway Co. (I don't know the WWII rail lines, so I don't know if there were other "Manchurian" rail companies or if SMR was the only one with the word in the title).

 

!. Blades were manufactured by the Manchurian Railway Company, from their own puddled steel. 

Correct.  I once learned what 'puddled steel' was, but don't remember.  I'll have to defer to you on that.

 

2. Some blades were finished at the Nanman factory in China. 

This we know for a fact.

 

3. The mune stamps were, for a better word, tracking numbers or production numbers, stamped in one or other factory in China. And the mei look all cut to a set style .

The reason for the numbering system is not documented anywhere I know of, but I would feel comfortable with that assumption.  Completely agree about the mei.  Considering the vast number of blades made, the mei is quite uniform, with slight and infrequent variations in cut or kanji style.

 

4. Finished blades were shipped to Japan for mounting, distribution and sale. This appears confirmed from orders and delivery information and documents. 

We know for a fact that in 1944, 500 finished and 5,500 'unfinished' blades were sent to Tokyo.  That's 6,000 blades!  Average would be 500 blades per month.  Ohmura's site said that full production in the early stage was 400 per month, so obviously they were able to increase production as the war went on.  We know from Type 95 production charts that there was a huge increase in production in 1944.  They went from an average of 30,000 blades per year to 50,000 in '44.  So, Mantetsu likely upped their production too.  My point is that we don't know for a fact that ALL Mantetsu blades were sent to Tokyo for mounting and sale.  We do know that SMR built their own fittings shop, which may explain the MRS gunto.  But I couldn't say the percentage of SMR blades that were shipped to Tokyo. 

 

5. There is NO evidence of any Mantetsu/Koa Isshin blades being made in Japan. 

  Agreed. 

 

6. We know that during the war, blades were in short supply, and the Mantetsu/Koa Isshin solution was an "outsourcing" exercise. 

One way to put it.  From their 1939 book, Ohmura's translation, SMR saw the need and applied their resources to help the war.  Once they demonstrated the high quality of their blades, mainland leadership (Army?) accepted.

 

So the "light bulb" over the head moment for me was the realization that ALL the blades are made in China, and none in Japan! It would not surprise me either if puddled steel from the Manchurian Electric Furnace was sent to Japanese sword smiths as a substitute for the limited supply of traditional tamahagane.

I seem to recall reading (don't know where) that some smiths wanted the Manchurian steel, but it's a vague memory.  I believe the urban-legand that Tokyo was making the Koa Isshin blades came from early mis-translations of the Mantetsu mei.  It was often, and still is today, mis-translated to say "Made from Mantetsu steel", which could imply that someone else, not Mantetsu, made the blade from steel obtained from SMR.  But it's a complete mistake to read the mei that way.  Every one of them says, in slightly varying ways "Mantetsu made this".  So, I agree that every Mantetsu blade was made in China, albeit by Japanese industry.

 

I have examples of Mantetsu swords with Chinese Manchurian Railway Company stamps, as well as Nanman and Dairen stamps from 1938-1944. 

So without being too controversial, there are actually blades that are papered MADE IN CHINA. 

All this being said, the Mantetsu blades were highly praised and sought after by the Japanese Officers. 

Ha!  I see the irony of your point!  Quite true!

 

I would be interested in comments on the above.    

 

 

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Additional pictures of a previously reported Mantetsu can be seen at the link below.  It is located in Australia and is currently up for sale.  It is dated 1940, from the 9th series, and is a commercial version.

Lot 596: WW2 Japanese Army officer’s sword signed Kōa Isshin Mantetsu

 

Below is the link to the previous NMB thread.

WW2 army officers signed sword

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thomas,

Thank you!  I wonder why I missed that one in my scouring of the forums for Mantetsu?  Maybe at the time I was thrown off by the fact that it was mumei and didn't understand the significance of the serial number.

 

At any rate, as I posted on his thread, here are our updated known 1945 serial numbers:

 

い 28 mumei (Steeve)

い 67 Konan Essei (from a book with a Diary citation)

い 90 Konan Essei (from a book with a Diary citation)

い 213 Konan Essei (from a book with a Diary citation)

い 289 Konan Essei (from a book with a Diary citation)

い 449 Konan Essei (from a book with a Diary citation)

い 622 Konan Essei (Beng Shua Collection)

い 1170 mumei (NGF Collection)

There is one on page 82 of Richard Fuller's Japanese Military and Civil Swords and Dirks book, that I'm sure is a '45.  I just wrote to him in hopes that he still has the gunto and can send a serial number to confirm.

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Which makes the 1945 list:

 

い 28 mumei (Steeve) MRS fittings

い 67 Konan Essei (from a book with a Diary citation)

い 90 Konan Essei (from a book with a Diary citation)

い 142 mumei (Richard Fuller collection) MRS fittings

い 213 Konan Essei (from a book with a Diary citation)

い 289 Konan Essei (from a book with a Diary citation)

い 449 Konan Essei (from a book with a Diary citation)

い 622 Konan Essei (Beng Shua Collection) Type 98 fittings

い 1170 mumei (NGF Collection) MRS fittings

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6 hours ago, Bruce Pennington said:

Bingo!  Richard's mumei blade in MRS fittings is a Mantetsu!  Serial number い 142.  Odd that it fits in the middle of other numbers that were marked with the Konan Essei slogan.

 

Is this sword, serial number い142, the same as the one pictured in his book that you illustrate at the link below?

Attention Mantetsu Owners: A Survey, Page 17

 

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  • 1 month later...

Thomas - @Kiipu,

Got to looking at the 3 unobserved katakana in the Mantetsu lines and realized that one of them is the "HE" also used by the Heijo factory of the Jinsen Arsenal.  I'm starting to wonder if it is an intentional omission to avoid confusing the mark on Mantetsu blades from Jinsen Arsenal work.

 

If so, do you think the  WI ヰ and  O  オ are intentional omissions as well?  If so, what other uses of the kanji were out there being used, that these would be confused with?

1125737024_SMRomissions.thumb.jpg.b4c020d85d7eb82d8c62bfd200070b10.jpg

 

                 
   
 
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All I can say is be patient.  There are some series that have only one blade reported.  It is important to have clear pictures of the serial numbers just for the reason you give.  Many of the katakana can be confused with other katakana characters.  While by no means a complete list, below are some examples that can be confused one with another.

ホネ

チテ

ヌスヲラ

ワウフ

タクケ

ノソツシ

コユ

エヱ

 

And finally, it is that time of year to give a big "Thank You" to all that have contributed a Mantetsu or two to the database.  Without you, there would be nothing to work with.  A special thanks to Bruce for putting it all together for all to enjoy!

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@Bruce Pennington

@Kiipu
  I noticed most of the numbers are 3 digits before 1942(昭和17壬午年)。 But there are one 1940(昭和15庚辰年)ワ( Wa) 1840 Autumn on Bruce's chart, it seems a little odd to me.
  Also, I was wondering why not many blade numbers over 1000 left? Maybe most of those higher numbered blades were issued to Kwantung Army (関東軍) and captured by Russians or Chinese and got destroyed?

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28 minutes ago, BANGBANGSAN said:

I was wondering why not many blade numbers over 1000 left?

Here's my thoughts on it, Trystan - When SMR started, according to Ohmura, they were making 400 blades per month, or 4,800 per year.  The chart found by Nick Komiya for 1944 production showed that SMR made 6,000 blades that year.  If they were just numbering the blades from 1 to 6,000 there would be numbered blades found each year in that full range.  But they were breaking them up with the Iroha lettering series, and each year had anywhere from 6 to 14 "series".  Let's just say a year used 10 katakana.  With 6,000 blades, divided evenly (we don't know that they were), we wouldn't see any numbers over 600.  1942 only used 6 katakana, so it would be normal to see a number over 1,000, and we do have a couple.  1943 used 15 katakana, so I'm surprised to see some over 1,000 (this may mean the numbers for each kanji weren't uniform in distribution).  1944 only used 5 kanji, so I'd expect to see numbers over 1,000, and we have plenty.  What is surprising is to see numbers that year over 2,000 (again suggesting the distribution of numbers wasn't uniform).  And finally, 1945 used only 1 kanji.  With fiscal year beginning April 14, there were only 4 months of production, but at 550 per month, that still should put numbers over 2,000 and we have 1 in the 1,000 range.

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Mantetsu Serial Number Ranges

1937 昭和丁丑

None reported.

1938 昭和戊寅

C-17 to C-30.  [2 reported]

H-14 to H-20.  [2 reported]

N-1 to N-408.  [10 reported]

Subtotal:  Approximately 480 blades a year or 40 per month.

1939 昭和己卯

N-?? to N-574.  [1 reported]

V-18 to V-33.  [2 reported]

W-23 to W-38.  [2 reported]

1st Series: イ-376 to I-466.

2nd Series: ロ-75 to RO-270.

3rd Series: ハ-?? to HA-24.

4th Series: ニ-57 to NI-679.

5th Series: ホ-123 to HO-125.

Subtotal:  1,800 yearly or 150 monthly.

1940 昭和庚辰

5th Series: ホ-538 to HO-546.

6th Series: ヘ None reported.

7th Series: と-41 to to-729.

8th Series: チ-61 to CHI-356.

9th Series: リ-108 to RI-560.

10th Series: ヌ-182 to NU-608.

11th Series: ル-16 to RU-199.

12th Series: ヲ None reported.

Subtotal:  2,400 yearly or 200 monthly.

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1941 昭和辛巳

13th Series:  ワ-6 to WA-238.

14th Series:  カ-89 to KA-546.

15th Series:  ヨ-11 to YO-352.

16th Series:  タ-181 to TA-336.

17th Series:  レ-6 to RE-476.

18th Series:  ソ-66 to SO-654.

19th Series:  ツ-198 to TSU-651.

20th Series:  ネ-2 to NE-414.

21st Series:  ナ-5 to NA-573.

Subtotal: 4,200 yearly or 350 monthly.

 

Comment:  I arrived at the approximate yearly production by merely adding the high serial number for the 13th to 21st series together.  I then divided by 12 to arrive at the monthly production.

@Bruce Pennington Feel free to correct and/or update any of the lows or highs.

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5 hours ago, Stephen said:

Seen on FB hope you can read it.

 

Thanks Stephen, but it's just too blurry.  Any chance of getting a clear shot, plus the rest of the nakago mei?  As a 1943 "Me" it could have a Nan stamp, or it could be a Koa Isshin.  More pics would really be nice.

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