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aceofspades389

Wakizashi ID. WWII era bring back. Want more info on provenance.

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I came into possession of this sword about a year ago. I was told my grandfather came to possess it either during or just after WWII. He worked on a minesweeper, so he probably didn't acquire it from the source. It has no serial numbers, so I don't believe it is a military sword. The blade is about 22 inches with the overall length being about 28 inches. There are no markings on the tang that I can see. The tsuka has markings around the "rim" and both sides of the tsuba have markings. All markings are hidden when the sword is fully assembled. As a complete novice I'm having a hard time finding a direction to look for information on the sword. 

 

Hopefully I attached detailed enough pictures. I know I didn't include a pic of the tang. I can do that, but there were no markings I could see. Thank you in advance.

 

Wes R.

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Well Wes, the bad news is that your grandfather, or the family members he passed it down to, have neglected this sword terribly and both the tsuba and the sword have rusted considerably.  The tsuba, which is signed by the Soten school, appears to have been nearly ruined, while the sword may be able to be restored, though almost certainly is not worth the price of restoration.  

 

The good news is that it appears to be a genuine Japanese wakizashi that is probably from 150-400 years old.  The fuchi-kashira and menuki, apparently being made of soft metal, have not deteriorated nearly as much as the sword and tsuba.  The sword probably would sell for $300-600 in my estimation.  

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Hi Wes, even if there is no signature on the nakago it will still be helpful for an evaluation if you can share photos here. Please begin by reviewing the link below. The condition is quite degraded and I would be careful not to handle with your bare fingers, which will only increase the areas of corrosion.

 

http://www.nbthk-ab.org/swordcare.pdf

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Signatures on the tsuba and fuchi:

 

藻柄子 Sōheishi

入道宗典製 Nyūdō Sōten-sei

 

江州 Kōshū

彦根住 Hikone-jū

 

If the signatures are genuine, I would be tempted to get the tsuba restored (if it can be restored). The sword also looks genuine - that is to say it looks like a real, Japanese sword from what I can see based on the shape. The fittings too, look like real Japanese fittings, and not fake knock-offs. So you are presented with a very common dilemma: enjoy the family inheritance as is, or spend the several thousands of dollars getting the sword and fittings restored, and end up with a healthy Japanese art sword - but that would be an expense that isn't likely to result in an ensemble whose value would exceed the cost of the effort.

 

Anyway, usually the next step is to get an expert to look at the various parts in hand. That should give you more information to help decide what to do. Also, keep your fingers off the sword because fingers and fingerprints only hasten the degradation of the sword. 

 

Edit: Robert was faster and more economical with the assessment. If it is a Sōten tsuba, I hope it isn't ruined, and that at least a partial restoration could be made. It certainly looks to be in the style of Sōten. And of course Ray's note is also correct.  

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Thank you guys for the help. I was disappointed by the condition as well when I first received it. I probably wont try to have it professionally restored, but I will try to keep it from getting any worse with the care guide. 

 

 

One thing I did find interesting in learning about nihonto is that ray skin is used on the tsuka. When I first examined the tsuka, I thought the sword was a mass produced, mid-20th century military sword because the ray skin felt plastic to me. Is aged ray skin supposed to feel plastic and "cheap" as opposed to like leather? 

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It looks genuine to me. The ray skin is probably the most replaceable part on an antique sword like this, with the wrapping coming in a close second (I wouldn't say this for all koshirae, mind you, but yours I think we can consider the wrapping and the ray skin to be sufficiently damaged as to be replaceable). Anyway, don't spend too much time fretting about the ray skin. You've got what looks to be an antique Japanese sword, and antique Japanese fittings, so the ray skin could be made from recycled Lego pieces and I don't think it would change the outlook for your sword. Anyway, get an expert to look at it close up, if you can, and then you can decide next steps. 

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