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Japanese Type 95 Sword for NCOs


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Hello everyone,


A few months back Brian asked for an article regarding Pattern 5, 6, 7 and 8 following on from a lengthy thread. Were I to do that, I would be posting a small book. So instead, I am offering a smaller alternative, regarding one of the many variations to the eight main patterns recognised by collectors.


I tend to keep information pretty close. I am offering this exert for two reasons:

  • I would like some feedback regarding the information - is it interesting? Is it too detailed? Not enough detail? Is the format accessible? - constructive feedback would be appreciated
  • Secondly, if you enjoy reading this article and learn anything, check out this thread http://www.militaria.co.za/nmb/topic/31297-gofundme-for-brian-send-him-to-dti-2020/ If it were not for the tireless efforts of Brian, most of us would be isolated and without the ability to draw on the vast array of knowledge and experience of the board. I ask you to consider making a small contribution to this thank you gift as a show of appreciation for providing a platform for sharing and learning.

Transition Model Type 95


On the 5th of July 1938* the Pattern 1 Type 95 NCO sword was retired from production, to be replaced with the Pattern 2.

There is a less documented ‘transitional model’ of sword which rests between the Pattern 1 and Pattern 2 Type 95, in which a number of differentiating details can be observed. Some of these are in line with the Pattern 1 and others the Pattern 2, but are distinct enough to warrant further discussion of this sword independently of the patterns, but with reference to each..


Foremost, the material used to cast the tsuka changes from copper to aluminium. Nick provides us with the following insight into this:


“Since the outbreak of the China Incident in July 1937, copper and brass needed to be

saved wherever possible, but luckily Japan had a comparatively generous supply of

aluminium, so copper was replaced with aluminium throughout industrial production

at this time. All copper coins were exchanged with aluminium ones and even the

China Incident War Medal was considered for production in aluminium before

settling on recycling old bronze coins.”


This aluminium tsuka is often observed with a distinct brass/brown colouration, which is often and incorrectly mistaken for staining or patina. This is a thin layer of Almite, which was used to protect the aluminium from degradation. Once again, Nick has kindly provided an answer to the research community. Nick observes that:


"Since 1923, the Japanese had been using Almite instead of aluminum, as aluminum corroded too quickly... Unless aluminum was in this color, it was not accepted as decent quality in the 1930s."


A second retention screw was added to the tsuka to complement the sarute nut and better secure the blade to the tsuka. This presented a problem, as the cast Pattern 1 tsuka was designed to correctly replicate the tsukamaki of officer swords in the hineri maki style. As both sides of the tsuka are not ‘mirrored’, the drilling of the hole for the additional retention screw resulted in the screw piercing the sunken same diamond on one side but the protruding ito on the other. As one can imagine, this did not allow for the nut to securely engage a flat surface of the aluminium tsuka without a degree of protrusion on the obverse ito side. This was a less than ideal situation and the author observes that this second retention screw nut is often damaged on known examples, perhaps due to the exposed location?


Another important detail to note is that the design of this screw differs to that which is used on the Pattern 2, 3 and 4 swords, which are, relatively speaking, consistent. The head of the screw is wider and also less protruding, lacking the dome shape of later screws and nuts.


The tsuba on this transitional model continued to use the 11mm thick brass tsuba as per the Pattern 1, while the Pattern 2 introduced a thinner, 9mm brass tsuba*. Nick states that:


“The only possible and likely reconciliation is that mixing of old and new

specs occurred to use up remaining stock of old Tsubas and Seppas.”


The author concedes that this may be the case and would explain the very limited number of this transitional pattern observed.


The habaki of this transitional model continues to exhibit the open half where the mune-machi rests. This is a characteristic of the Pattern 1 which ends completely with the introduction of the Pattern 2.


The leather sarute used on Pattern 1 swords (though most examples seen nowadays have been fitted with a wire replacement) was replaced by a triangular shaped wire sarute for this transitional model. To the author’s knowledge, there is no evidence that leather was ever employed. The reason for this change should be obvious to even the most unimaginative individual - excessive wear and lack of integrity of the leather sarute.


The saya of the transitional model bears all the hallmarks of the Pattern 2 saya. The main difference observed between the Pattern 1 saya and the transitional model is the revised drag; from the copper plug to the well-known integral steel drag observed on the Pattern 2. The positioning of the suspension ring was not adjusted remaining 6.5cm from the bottom of the saya throat fitting. Though consistency of the positioning of the hanging ring appears to be lacking throughout the manufacturing of the Type 95, Pattern 2 suspension rings are usually situated 1cm higher at 5.5cm. It should be noted that the practice of undercoating the saya with a grey base-paint continued for the transitional model, with most known examples exhibiting minimal traces of the green/brown regulation outer layer, but often a generous amount of the grey base paint remains over the raw steel.


These transitional swords exhibit a very limited serial number range. Pattern 1 swords have been observed by the author up to the 7,000 range, while the earliest Pattern 2 sword the author has observed begins in the 7900 range. We can then infer from this that there were likely less than one 800 of these transitional swords produced.


As with the Pattern 1, these transitional swords are all stamped with the Suya and Kokura stamps on the fuchi and a To inspection mark on the blade, fuchi and saya throat.The transitional sword had a short run and Nick observes that:


“On 24th June 1939, the tape wrap pattern for the grip was changed, so both sides had

identical patterns and was easier to ensure a tight fit of the fuchi to the lower end of

the grip.”

There are of course exceptions and variations, but these will be covered elsewhere under the subcontractor and swords they pertain to.



*an asterisk denotest this information was obtained from the research of Nick Komiya, who very kindly allowed me to use his research in my work

Italics denote an opinion, supposition or conjecture without any basis in documentation or evidence

Patterns in order - 1 Copper handle, 2 Aluminium handle - brass tsuba, 3 Aluminium handle - iron tsuba, 4 Aluminium handle - side latch, 5, Wooden handle- steel saya, 6 Wooden handle - wooden saya, 7 Wooden ring handle, 8 Ito wrapped handle








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:clap: :clap: :clap:

Exactly the sort of clear, concise and understandable article that we need. well done. I think it can be expanded a bit with info from members, but is a solid base that can only increase interest in these.
Thanks Steve..great work.

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Thank you for the kind words, gentlemen.


You're correct Neil, the tassel passed through the second hole on the tsuba. If I get the opportunity tomorrow, I will post a picture of the army regulations showing the two proscribed methods of attaching the tassel. These were previously posted by Nick,obtained from the national archives.


Lovely looking Pattern 2 example, very clean. Serial number?

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Fabulous work. Seriously can't wait for your book. Please don't let silly things like work, marraige, new baby, etc, get in your way!!! Ha!


Now I feel like there might have been some legit transitional 95s come through here that we may have dismissed as "brass" fakes.


Are you saying that ALL aluminum handles were coated with almite? If so, it must have worn off with the paint in the gunto we see today that are bare aluminum. I have a #10506 that clearly has the almite coating still.


Looks like it was after the transition because they were "moving" the ito for the screw.


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Neil, I can try to figure that out when I find the pictures of the knots.


No Bruce, the use of the almite was definitely not used on all aluminum handle swords. It was certainly used on the particular transitional sword the exert is referring to and probably some earlier swords. Like the practice of undercoating saya, it appears to have ceased at some point in favour of expediency.


Yes, Gifu are different again and their early swords have the shifted ito design, but that's a whole new subject! Even the mirrored ito design on the Pattern 2 is not homogeneous across subcontractors.

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Here you go Neil. The original regulation with two images and the revision with a larger image. These are courtesy of Nick of course. It will take me a little longer to guess the year of manufacturer, as I will need to cross reference a few charts.



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A question... would it be better to present the information under uniformed sub-headings? For other swords or variations, should I speak to each part of the sword, even if it were just 'saya is identical to standard Pattern 2' for example, or would it be better to only include the points of difference?



Main heading









Actually, I'll tidy this up with some examples to make the proposals easier to understand later. Just thinking about the best way to present info.

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GREAT article and Thanks Steve!    It's concise and it flows well.    I strongly agree with Neil on the flow;  Pattern and date of implement, then break it down by parts within variations off each pattern or transition.  I just think it makes it easier for the flow and the novice to learn.   


As a side note, I am not sure if it is an Australian phrase or your personal touch, but I love your use of words when you state,  "The reason for this change should be obvious to even the most unimaginative individual ... "      I need to remember that statement for the next time my teenage son comes home from school and calls one of his classmates an "idiot."    I will correct him and say,  "He's just an unimaginative individual!"  -  it's more polite, for sure.   :)   I am not implying you assume the worst of people, but it's a nice, polite phrasing, for sure!     

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Hi Dan,


Glad you enjoyed the exert. I'm not sure exactly where the phrase originated. It's not really a polite term for an idiot though, more an alternative to saying 'it should be obvious', 'plain as day' or as a distinct Aussie alternative, 'it's a no-brainer'. Something so self evident that you can state reasoning beyond any doubt.


I've thought about the layout more am I think a homogeneous set of sub headings for each sword, with a description and some narrative under each would be a good structure.

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These transitional swords exhibit a very limited serial number range. Pattern 1 swords have been observed by the author up to the 7,000 range, while the earliest Pattern 2 sword the author has observed begins in the 7900 range. We can then infer from this that there were likely less than one 800 of these transitional swords produced.


The highest Suya with a copper tsuka that I know of is 6444 with no blade inspection mark. [SoIJ mentions 6561 but does not state if the blade has an inspection mark or not.]



I know of three Suya Type 95s with aluminium tsuka in the 6,000 range: 6276東, 6787東, and 6877東.  The second retention bolt [目釘 mekugi] on serial number 6787東 has the same type of flattened head as you depict in the OP.

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Interesting read, and good write up Steve,

I'll just add a bit in response to a few posts here aswell.


As far as i can tell, in the Pattern 2 the only major variations were the handles. Minor things such as accompanying mekugi screws, sarute and paint colours followed.


Neil, the leather sarute in Pattern 1 were discontinued around the #700 mark, yours if later, would not have had one.  (BTW- is yours 4131 with 1719??)


The extremely nice and mint #52627 you show, i place at April 1941, and although very nice and clean (but not like yours) about 1/2 hr or so after this one! :thumbsup:





Now I feel like there might have been some legit transitional 95s come through here that we may have dismissed as "brass" fakes.

I don't think that would of happened, too many good eye's on this forum to let one slip through.


Also in so far as the Brass tsuba's go, all have the extra hole for the leather buckle tassel to mount from. The only ones that didn't have the hole and were released were the steel tsuba Pattern 3 versions. Nick K clarified that high level documents did not need reflect Rinji specs in a post over at warrelics forum. So the official document for tassel use, may have been intended for a new brass tsuba that never eventuated, and due to the nature of Rinji specs, did not require to be updated and reflect this.

This may be something you could mention in the next chapter though.


Thomas, i agree with your observations in stamps, and the early AL-handled swords






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Thanks Stegal for adding the extra bits of info!


And so sorry Neil! I totally forgot that I was going to check when your sword was made. I've not got the best memory as it is and I'm fairly tired to top it all off.

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Do any collectors happen to have consecutive numbers in their collection?




Sorry John, i'm not lucky enough for that, but i think i might have the closest Mis-matched  combo.

Blade 38809 and Scabbard 38804, only 5 apart.

Close enough to think it may have happened at the Arsenal itself.


post-1868-0-11269800-1583730683_thumb.jpg post-1868-0-82119100-1583730707_thumb.jpg


Anyone got closer??

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've just acquired (for re-sale) a 95 with non-matching numbers - blade: 86471; saya 80270; and am really starting to wonder if we are seeing actual in-the-field saya replacements, or even factory/arsenal replacements. At only 6000 numbers apart, this blade/saya were roughly only 3 months apart on the factory line. Seems impossibly close for a end-of-war G.I. mixed grab, or a post-war put together.



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Big assumption, Bruce. One I don't agree with. You're entirely forgetting what was done with Type 32 when they were returned to the arsenal.


Sometimes a coincidence is just that. You've made a fair leap from 'only 6000 apart' to 'only 128 apart'. There were definitely mistamping of swords and saya. Plenty of evidence of that. I could certainly believe that numbers like 12354 and 12345 were accidentally done in the factory. There is, however, no evidence that I am aware of that the arsenals would just slap together a 'close enough' saya that they just happened to have lying around.


Would be a simple matter to grind down the throat and restamp, as we sadly see a number of unscrupulous dealers already doing.


Can I believe that after a battle that a NCO with a damaged sword/saya collected one from a deceased and used that? Absolutely.


Need to see where the idea of wartime separation of swords and sayas was sourced too. Seems stupid and dangerous to take a bunch of swords out of scabbard, pile them together then let soldiers grab one from each pile. Why? I'm not saying this didn't happen as I don't have the proof it didn't, but all the photo's in those same books show piles of swords in their sheaths (quite sensibly so).


The idea that dealers separated swords later to make them look nicer seems more likely. I'd be keen to see if there are an average of more matched swords than mismatched. Seems to me that mismatched are less common than matched, but anecdotal evidence is useless.

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HI Bruce & Steve,


Don't have the background arsenal knowledge of either of you but purely from a logic point of view (and to a small degree personal experience) I agree with Steve's comment about swapping equipment in the field.


To my mind that scenario is more than a remote possibly but quite likely particularly as the NCO seems to be a 'one size fits' all.  Mid and later in the war, the IJA supply lines had enough trouble with ammunition, food and medicines without worrying about things that could easily be rectified in the field (resourcefully).


Is it simply a matter of IJA soldiers being issued consecutive numbered factory/arsenal equipment on commencing/leaving basic training? Largely, the men from those units would remain together during their various postings and logically, would make whatever 'field swaps' they needed to in order to remain operational.   


Seems straightforward to me.




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