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Photo of an Early Gunto?

Peter Bleed

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Dear Friends,

Please allow me to present an image I recently acquired. I am interested in early photos of even earlier swords. And in that pursuit I "found" the attached image. It doesn't fit what I was interested in, but I was bored and the whole Covina thing has us al running in strange directions, so I followed it there in the world's fleamarket, and....

I find this an interesting image.The photo has no marking beyond the name of the photographer K. Yamanaka from Nakatsu. I think that is a place in northern Kyushu. It is also undated, but I read it as either very late Meiji times or maybe even Taisho - that is a pure guess.

Let's start with the sword the gentleman is holding. It does not to my eye look exactly like any of the gunto types I have seen. I don't think it is a Type 32 sword.  It looks closer to what Jim Dawson calls a Type 8 Riding Sword altho the shape of the backstrap seems like less than a perfect match for anything he shows. And I would like to have a different perspective on the tsuka. Notice, too, that it seems to be equipped with a leather barrel sword knot.

Moving to the fellow who is shown with the sword, it is fair to start by saying  that he is holding NOT wearing the sword. He is in Japanese clothing so there is nothing like a sword belt. He is wearing a mon-zukuri haori and a couple of other layers. He has what looks like a billed cloth cap that might have a small central pip of some manner, but it doesn't look like any of the military caps I have bumped into. He is also wearing tabi so I assume he showed up at the photographer's shop wearing geta. All this to say that I don't think his fellow is dressed at all in a military or other official outfit - - right??

Now, let's look at how he is standing.First, he is holding this apparent gunto with edge up, as if it were a katana. And he is also holding a carpet bag. Together with hat and the rest of his outfit, this suggests that he was getting ready to travel. The fellow also seems to my - aging - eyes to be too old to be an active soldier. Could he be a "old soldier" who is getting ready for reassignment?



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That’s a very interesting find Peter! Thanks for showing it to us.


While you’re here, I also wanted to thank you! I’ve discovered, by pure chance, that you had written a book and have bought an read it. It was a real, enjoyable read. Sir, you have talent!

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you certinally have a odd one there.


in the end it will most likely be labelled, unidentifable, early model or custom.


the hook quillion at the top of the guard isnt capped with a ball. rather odd.  the steeped wings of the backstrap are long, and rather deep looking. the back strap looks to be completely void of and decoration but the general shape of the tsuka and guard look simular to a type 19 cavalry officers sword.


the leather barraled knot could be a policemans knot, a army knot or a very rare 1912 knot for officers and officals, but they had a corded lanyard. the photo looks like leather.

also its attached at the guard, not at the pommel, the plot thinkens

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