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Kiipu

Murata Swords 村田刀

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Colonel Murata, already celebrated as the inventor of a special kind of rifle, has achieved new fame by the invention of a sword.  It seems that for some time past military men have been of opinion that the swords hitherto used in this country are too heavy to be wielded with ease by ordinary Japanese soldiers.  Encouraged by the success which crowned his experimenting on rifle metal, some two years ago, Colonel Murata commenced to collect and to experiment on various kinds of sword metal, with the result that in February last he produced a weapon which, while less heavy than European swords, cuts far better.  The cutting power of Colonel Murata’s sword has been tested in various ways.  The weapon is said to surpass the blades of even such famous swordsmiths as Masamune and Muramasa.  There was certainly room for such an invention as that attributed to Colonel Murata.  The sword carried by an officer in Europe is an exceedingly mediocre weapon, and that carried by a trooper is worse.

The Japan Weekly Mail (1888-07-21): 56.

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That's a fabulous find, Thomas! I don't have my reference books at the time, but this seems to be 2 years after the introduction of the Kyu-gunto and the Type 32s?  Weren't they in the 1886 time frame?

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Encouraged by his successful experiments on rifle metal, Colonel Murata has for some time been engaged in testing various kinds of sword metal, with the result that in February last he produced a weapon claimed to be lighter and to cut better than European ones now in use, the blade being said to surpass even those of the celebrated swordsmiths Muramasa (A.D. 1322) and Masamune (A.D. 1326).  This sword has not yet been adopted, but some change is likely, as the sword now in use is deemed by military men too heavy for the Japanese soldier.

“The Army of Japan, Part II.” The Cosmopolitan 10.2 (December 1890): 167.

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Glad to see you're reading some Classics Thomas!  Seriously, we are all grateful for you're ability to research and share. 

 

Does the publication offer any pictures?

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The early Murata swords appear to have three distinct nakago mei variations.  These marking variations seem to be in chronological order.  Unfortunately, the meaning of the Arabic numerals that frequently appear underneath the date is unknown at this time.

 

1888

Nakago Obverse

明治年月 陸軍歩兵大佐村田経芳

Meiji Year Month Army Infantry Colonel Murata Tsuneyoshi

(Only one known example and it can be seen on page 181 of Slough's book.)

 

1889 to 1892

Nakago Obverse

明治年月 [sometimes Arabic numerals]

Meiji Year Month & sometimes Arabic numerals

Nakago Reverse

小銃 兼正

Rifle Kanemasa

 

1892 to 1894

Nakago Obverse

明治年月日 [sometimes Arabic numerals]

Meiji Year Month Day & sometimes Arabic numerals

Nakago Reverse

村田刀 兼正

Murata Sword Kanemasa

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Below are some links to various Murata-tō.  Needless to say, start with Ohmura's site first.

 

Ohmura's website

Murata-tō

 

小銃 兼正 明治廿三年十一月

Early Murata-To, And How To Id Them

Earliest Date On A Kogarasu Maru Blade?

 

村田刀 兼正 明治廿六年二月十八日

Rare Murata-to, Kogarasumaru-to Dress Saber in Shin-Gunto Mounts

 

村田刀 兼正 明治廿六年十二月一日

kyū guntō 旧軍刀 murata-to Kanemasa from Murata Tsuneyoshi

 

村田刀 兼正 明治廿七年一月十五日

sword ID

 

Edited by Kiipu

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Ok, you had me at "stamped numbers"!!! Ha!

 

So, they were doing this as early as the late-1800s.

 

Great thread Thomas, thanks for all the links!  Enjoying this!

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Here are some shots of my Murata-to. All the fittings are copper and the saya is canvas wrapped. It is not sharpened which makes sense if it is a practice sword. Also there are no Menuki but ovals of wood to orient the hands on the Tsuka. No. 103 w/ arsenal stamp. Two mekugi ana .  Amazingly it's in perfect condition, 

 

Jim M.

IMG_0756.JPG

IMG_0759.JPG

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That is an interesting sword.  I think the blade would be classed as an "arsenal sword" 造兵刀 though.  I am sure others will chime in if I am wrong.

造兵刀 Army Arsenal blade

 

As an after thought, does the top of the tang, nakago mune, have any markings?  If so, could you post a picture of them?

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Thank you for the links to the information on Murata-to. Mine is identical to that given to Prince Chichibu for practice. No signature, date or any marks along the top of the tang. I must have missed the 2016 thread and really enjoyed the comments and info. 

 

Jim M.

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This has been a very interesting thread to read.   I am the person who posted earlier in the translation request section and own the Kyu Gunto dress sword.   Mine has a date and a signature as indicated below from the translation section.  It is a new acquisition within the last few days.

 

Shōjū Kanemasa  小銃兼正

明治廿三年三月 = March 1890 [1890-03]

 

However,  mine has no arsenal stamp of Kokura ( three cannon balls)  as in Jim's sword above.  The blade does have a sharpen cutting edge.   On the nakago it has stamped Arabic numbers, of which has been a brief discussion above.   I am curious as to the meaning for these numbers.   Any other  thoughts and opinions are very welcomed.  So now I am wondering just how rare are the Murata Swords which bear his signature and are dated?   After some minor clean up it appears to be in incredibly good condition.  

Any opinions as to value is also appreciated.

 

Thank everyone all in advance

Edward G.

 

1b.JPG

1e.JPG

compare - before.JPG

compare - after.JPG

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14 hours ago, Jim Manley said:

Thank you for the links to the information on Murata-to. Mine is identical to that given to Prince Chichibu for practice. No signature, date or any marks along the top of the tang. I must have missed the 2016 thread and really enjoyed the comments and info.

 

It appears your sword is neither a Murata-tō or an arsenal sword.  It is a 練習刀 which translates as "practice sword."  The Prince Chichibu practice sword dates to 大正八年八月吉日 [August 1919] and I think yours would date to about this same time frame as well.  It is the only one that I am aware other than the one at Ohmura's website.  I would suggest starting a thread devoted to it as I am certain others would like to see and learn more about it.  I know I would!  Thanks again for sharing your sword with us and I hope to see more of it in the future.

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4 hours ago, Edward G said:

On the nakago it has stamped Arabic numbers, of which has been a brief discussion above.   I am curious as to the meaning for these numbers.

 

Not all of the swords have these Arabic numerals.  I think these numbers could be divisional? issue/inventory numbers.  However, your opinion is just as valid as mine!

 

4 hours ago, Edward G said:

So now I am wondering just how rare are the Murata Swords which bear his signature and are dated?

 

I have oshigata information on 14 Kanemasa 兼正 swords via the Internet and sword forums.  Thirteen of them are summarized in post number 6 above.

 

The last one could be a presentation sword as it has a horimono and the mei markings are different from all the rest.  On this possible presentation sword, the nakago obverse is marked as 小銃 兼正 while the reverse is marked as 為龍為光.

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With the help of BangBangSan, the following update is possible on the Murata sword made in June 1888.

 

1888

Nakago Obverse

明治廿一年六月 陸軍歩兵大佐村田経芳

Meiji 21st Year 6th Month Army Infantry Colonel Murata Tsuneyoshi

Nakago Reverse

新折衷和洋之刀制爰謹令我東京砲兵工廠小銃製造所鍛冶造焉

Page 181 of Slough's book gives the translation as "By order of the new Japanese-European combined sword system,  I respectfully forged this at the Tokyo Artillery Arsenal & Small Arms Factory."  A minor correction is in order though in regards to this translation.  The characters 東京砲兵工廠小銃製造所 translate as "Rifle Factory of Tōkyō Artillery Arsenal."

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So far, I have run across two different double-edged blade shapes used by Kanemasa 兼正.  I think yours is called a "kissaki moroha zukuri" 鋒両刃造 and it is based upon the Kogarasu Maru (小烏丸).  Four of the fourteen Kanemasa swords have this blade shape.  Ohmura-sensei disagrees and calls it a "mukade-giri-maru" 蜈蚣切丸.  Below is a link to a PDF that shows the "mukade-giri-maru" at the Ise Shrine and it can be seen in frame 2.  Any thoughts about this dilemma welcomed.

http://museum.isejingu.or.jp/docs/cms_event/o65yx90q/展示作品.pdf

 

Kanemasa 兼正 also used one other double-edged blade shape and it can be seen in Edward's sword in post 14.  I do not know what this style is called but it does show up at least twice.

 

Here is the translations for your sword.

明治廿六年十二月一日 = 1893-12-01 (01 December 1893).

村田刀兼正 = Murata-sword Kanemasa.

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Enjoying the conversation about these unique gunto!  Thomas, glad to see you're tracking them.  I enjoy seeing your chart (must be on another thread) almost as much as seeing these great blades! Ha!

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On 11/19/2020 at 10:41 AM, Edward G said:

However,  mine has no arsenal stamp of Kokura ( three cannon balls)  as in Jim's sword above.

 

Prior to 1896, the Tōkyō Artillery Arsenal used 東京砲兵工廠 because the stacked cannon ball logo did not come unto use until December 1896.

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On 11/18/2020 at 5:54 PM, Jim Manley said:

All the fittings are copper and the saya is canvas wrapped

James,

Could I see the full tsuka on that one?  The portion of the wrap, plus the basic tsuba, look like Rinji-seishiki fittings.

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Some, but not all, of the 兼正 (Kanemasa) made swords have Arabic numerals stamped beneath the date.  In some cases, this consists of two rows of numbers such as illustrated below.

5

95

The example above would be rendered as 5/95 in text.  My initial thoughts was that these numerals were a sequential serial number starting at 1.  However, upon charting the swords out in chronological order, this did not appear to be the case.  The only order that appears is that the swords with the same number on the first row, seem to have the second number increase on swords made later on.  I am thinking it is possible that these numerals could have been applied sometime after production.  One such possibility that comes to mind would be some type of unit inventory number.  However, I have no evidence to support such an assumption.  As always, comments welcomed on this conundrum.

kanemasa-and-arabic-numerals.jpg

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