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Arsenal Mark on RJT sword Fittings


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6 hours ago, george trotter said:

(I also seem to remember undated? examples from Osaka arsenal

I have 6 dated and 7 undated "Saka" stamped blades, whereas undated blades of the other arsenals are rare.  Although, all 7 of the undated ones are Nagamitsu.  What are you thinking in reference to Osaka?

 

I did some checking of the rest of the 60+ Star-stamped blades on file and the massive majority of them ARE dated.  Interesting.  The undated ones seem to be evenly distributed between Nagoya, Seki and Kokura with no clear pattern.

 

Here's my Saka record:

 

Saka chart.jpg

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Not to beat the proverbial dead horse, but Chris Bowen just gave a really good summary of all the things we've been saying about the non-star blades:

"There is a simple explanation as to why we see so many unstamped blades from RJT: while they were contracted to produce blades for the military, that neither prevented nor eliminated their making blades outside of that contract. Some devoted all their time to making blades for the military, some made few. I would suspect that those who could make more money selling their blades privately did so in the majority. Those whose work was in high demand-who were famous- could make a great deal more than what the military would pay, thus it is only logical that they wouldn’t spend their time making 75 yen blades when they could be getting 150 yen for the same thing. We see very few star stamped blades from the more famous smiths of the day, and none from the leading lights. Smiths like Tsukamoto Okimasa, who was young and becoming famous, made a lot of swords during the war but I have only seen 1 with a star stamp. The other reason we see smiths with a small number of star stamps is that this program launched rather late into the war- the earliest star stamp I have seen as I recall was on a blade from 1942. A lot of swords were made before then. I have seen very few star stamped blades from 1944 and 1945, mostly 1942 and 1943, so the program seems to have started late and was ramped down after a short time."

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Back to the stamped numbers on RJT blades - Came across a second Gunma prefecture smith with the "Ku" + number.  It's on page 167 of Ohmura's new book entitled 真説 戦う日本刀―“最高”と呼べる武器性能の探究 [True Theory, Japanese Fighting Sword].  (the book was a gift from a most gracious gentleman, and is in Japanese, which I cannot read, but I sure can spot a number on a nakago when I see one!). 

Tsugunobu (RJT), Gunma, July 1944 RS fittings. ク70-5

 

Here's the updated chart

kana with numbers 1.jpg

 

kana with numbers 2.jpg

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Have to say yes, I agree with Chris on the fact that many RJT smiths simply made non-star blades privately because they made a bigger profit. We don't know where/how they got the tamahagane, but MAYBE, the army was happy to sell it direct to them as it still covered their production cost and it still produced one more gendaito sword for the war effort. just thinking out loud.

 

Once again Bruce, thanks for your efforts on marks and numbers...all good info to us RJT collectors (and other good WWII use gendaito).

 

Regards,

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On 4/3/2021 at 10:37 PM, george trotter said:

a page from a book showing  marks of the workshops/factories attached to the No. 1 Tokyo Arsenal and the No. 2 Tokyo Arsenal.

 

On 4/4/2021 at 10:09 PM, Kiipu said:

The markings that Morita san illustrates are inspection marks and they are coming from a 1943 manual that was reprinted back in the 1990s

 

Getting back to the original post about the book and the shops listed there, I'm still confused about the inspection marks listed with each shop.  Am I understanding that the marks are Army inspection marks assigned to each shop, or used by Army inspectors assigned to that shop?  It would seem impractical, to impossible, to be Army inspectors at the arsenal, marking each seppa after receiving an assembled gunto.  It would have had to been applied during manufacture or just prior to assembly at the shop.  So whether army or shop originated, the mark must have been used AT the shop as each gunto is put together.  But I digress - my real question is - Is the mark for each shop an Army inspection mark assigned to each shop?

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I'm bringing a non-RJT blade to the discussion because it's a good example of how difficult it is to pin down this question of stamped numbers on nakago.

 

It's one owned (or posted) by @Stegel.  I can't find the original thread or I'd post the link.  It's a late-war Type 95 blade, with the ヘ HE of the Heijō Factory of Jinsen Army Arsenal.  No bohi, and the fact that it was made by Jinsen puts it in the last year of the war, most likely.  It's in "standard" Rinji seishiki fittings, but with a low quality Type 98 tsuba. 

 

I'm discussing it because the nakago is stamped "1285" while the fittings are stamped "21".  First glance screams "Post-war piece-together!", but I don't think so.  I think it was simply last year of the war, Jinsen, or a shop in the area, used whatever parts were available to get an officer gunto put together for a buyer.  To my knowledge, there are no NCO Type 95s with stamped numbers on the nakago.  So, if it were made for an officer, or re-purposed for one, why would it have "fittings numbers" stamped on the nakago that don't match the fittings?  Of course, like the other mis-matched numbers discussed on another thread, the blade could have been re-fitted after some damage to the original fittings, but, in the last year of the war?  Seems a stretch.  But if the numbers on the nakago aren't fitter stamped, then why are they there?

 

More examples of Jinsen type 95 blades with numbers would certainly help with answers, but this one example seems to tilt the issue a tiny bit toward the numbers being put there by the factory or Army inspectors.

 

Then again, I may be stretching the whole example when the easy answer is the blade was stamped 1285 by the first fitting shop and then re-fitted with the current set of RS fittings after damage, or even post-war.  If post-war, that still leaves a sticky-wicket question of why would a Type 95 blade have stamped numbers on the nakago.  Which STILL brings the issue around to "not done by fitters."

 

Thoughts?

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On the other hand, a pre-RJT program blade by Munetoshi, July 1941, from Slough, stamped "106", so probably a fitter number but no fittings shown to find out.  So, like we've said earlier, the numbers are likely a mixture of fitter shops, Army, and forge shops.

post-683-0-12311300-1520266403_thumb.jpg

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I do not think fitters would risk damaging a sword by stamping. Unless they owned the blade and were going to sell privately. But we have seen many blades with paint. Plus the stamps on fittings only and those without, the mystery continues....

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Another thing that just occurred to me is that the stamped numbers seem to have started in 1941.  Other than the zoheito of the late 1800s, my earliest blades with stamped numbers are July and December 1941.  Even dating of blades didn't really take off until the Army assumed control of sword production in late 1941.  It is rare to find a blade dated before 1940, they exist but in very small numbers.  So, there is more to this than just fitting shops.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Brucey boy...dig, dig, dig...you are doing a good job.

So far the katakana prefix seems to be used in more than one prefecture in some cases...keep digging, one day, this will all mean something...

Regards,

 

BTW, that AKITA prefix and numbers seems really large...unusual?

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1 hour ago, george trotter said:

katakana prefix seems to be used in more than one prefecture in some cases

Yes, that Akita number was the largest I've seen so far. 

 

As to a same katakana being used in more than one prefecture - that's a little complicated.  The only repeat katakana is "イ" , but it's on the mune of a Fukuoka Nagamitsu and on the fittings of Niigata Akimitsu & Munetoshi.  All the katakana on the nakago ends, mei side, are specific to prefectures and aren't used elsewhere.  So I'm not convinced the イis the same as the others, meaning, I think it was put there by fitters, while the mei-side kana, in my view, are put there by Army inspectors.

Katakana with numbers.docx

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The katakana characters タ TA, オ O, ク KU, マ MA, フ FU, and ア A, appear to be a numbering system used by an association (or arsenal) that had jurisdiction over northern and central Honshu.  I notice that no prefectures in the southern part of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyūshū, make an appearance.

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Thanks for the insight Thomas! I was starting to wonder if this was a practice of the Tokyo 1st Arsenal.  This may back up my idea.

 

Quite a small sample still, but so far, it looks like the kana might have stopped in 1945 with just numbers in use that year.  In general, many of the stamps stopped after 1944 with only Gifu and Seki (small Nagoya inspector stamp) active in '45.

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I think I've mentioned this already but too tired to find the post.  But I've added another pre-RJT blade to the files with a stamped number from a smith that later bacame RJT:

 

1941, Jul

Munetoshi (pre-RJT)

106

Slough

1941, Dec

Tomomaru (pre-RJT)

535

tsuba matching

1941, Dec

Tomomaru (pre-RJT)

631

Ray Singer website RS

For WWII blades, this is the earliest, so far, I've seen stamped numbers and all of them are on smiths that later became part of the RJT system.  I think they are Army numbers, not fitter shop numbers.

 

Additionally, expanding on a few scattered discussions, I think the numbering began without katakana, as evidenced above and seen in the example below of 3 Kanetsugu blades.  The '42 blade was numbered as all previous blades, without katakana.  But in 1943 (from other blades) the katakana system started and ran through 1944.  In 1945, the katakana were dropped for some reason.  These Kanetsugu blades are representative of what I am seeing across the board with all the blades from all the RJT smiths.

 

1942, Mar

Kanetsugu (RJT) – Gunma

1220

George Trotter, RS

1944, Jan

Kanetsugu (RJT) -- Gunma

306 Star

Edward Mahle, NMB

1945, Feb

Kanetsugu (RJT) – Gunma

938

Antiqueimperialarts

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3 hours ago, BANGBANGSAN said:

not sure if you have this one on file.Tang marked #20.

親房

Trystan!

This one is a game-changer if I've translated the mei right - Chikafusa of Nagano prefecture?

 

It has a faint "Matsu" stamp in front of the number.  So, if Chikafusa is right, then this is the first known Matsu stamped blade we have that's not Akihisa or Munetoshi (Yamagami Brothers).  @george trotter !!!

Matsu.jpeg

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1 minute ago, Bruce Pennington said:

Trystan!

This one is a game-changer if I've translated the mei right - Chikafusa of Nagano prefecture?

 

It has a faint "Matsu" stamp in front of the number.  So, if Chikafusa is right, then this is the first known Matsu stamped blade we have that's not Akihisa or Munetoshi (Yamaga

Matsu.jpeg

Great Information find Bruce and source of knowledge 

it’s these reference finds that help me day by day to learn more

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Ed's discussion of the double inspector stamps made me dig deeper in my files.  I have 8 blades from 6 smiths with the double inspector stamps.  Regardless of prefecture, the stamps all seem to come from 2 arsenals - Kokura Army Arsenal, Kumamoto division and Nagoya Army Arsenal.  What I find peculiar is the Na/Ho on the Norisada of Fukuoka.  I suppose the blade may have been sent to Nagoya to fill a quota there, but that is speculation.

 

Double Inspector Stamps

 

1942, Sep

Morinobu – Kumamoto

Ho/Ho on mune

1942, Mar

Norisada – Fukuoka

Na/Ho on mune

1943, Jan

Norisada – Fukuoka

Ko/Ho on mune

1943, Feb

Hidehiro – Fukuoka

Ko/Ho on mune

ND

Kanemoto – Kanegawa

Na/Ho on mune

1942, Mar

Kanehide – Gifu

Na-mei, Na-mune

1943, Mar

Kanehisa – Gifu

Na/Na on mune

1944, Sep

Kanehisa – Gifu

Seki-date side, Seki-mune

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1 hour ago, Bruce Pennington said:

Trystan!

This one is a game-changer if I've translated the mei right - Chikafusa of Nagano prefecture?

 

It has a faint "Matsu" stamp in front of the number.  So, if Chikafusa is right, then this is the first known Matsu stamped blade we have that's not Akihisa or Munetoshi (Yamagami Brothers).  @george trotter !!!

Matsu.jpeg

Bruce

It should be 櫻井親房 from 長野. http://ohmura-study.net/025.html

He is #36 in 鍛錬刀の部 入賞刀位列 list.

Never say never to WW2 Gunto that's what I’ve learned.

WechatIMG2318.jpeg

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1 hour ago, Bruce Pennington said:

Thanks again Trystan!  I don't see a star, is this your gunto?  Is this the best photo of the nakago?

Unfortunately, it's not my sword. But I think there is a star stamp on top of the Mei.

WechatIMG2321.jpeg

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Wow...matsu in a circle on a non-Yamagami Bros of Niigata sword ...great stuff!

Well Bruce..you now have matsu/number in Nagano on a Chikafusa sword.   SOOO....in the case of the Yamagami Bros we can remove all our assumptions that the matsu mark/number system was theirs...it must be a mark/no in the polishing or mounting  system...just seems to confirm that Chikafusa and the Yamagami Bros used (at least sometimes) the same service provider.

 

Now we just have to go through all the WWII books and see if anyone named Matsu / Matsu-something had a mounting / polishing shop in the Nagano-Niigata area...or maybe they sent their swords to Tokyo?

I've got a lollypop for the guy/gal who finds the answer.

I'm smilinhg Bruce...thanks Trystan.

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Edit to add...I just checked my Yamagami matsu stamp/number list - for your info:

Munetoshi 17/4      matsu  11  Rinji (no star)  Niigata

Chikafusa  17/2     matsu   20  Rinji   (star?)   Nagano

Akihisa        ?          matsu   61  Rinji  (no star) Niigata

Munetoshi 17/10  matsu 451  Rinji  (no star) Niigata

Munetoshi  7/11  matsu  422            (star)      Niigata

etc.

So, you can see that things like dates and numbers "jump about" a bit...maybe indicates that these swords arrive in bundles at the polisher or mounter and are stamped a "bit out" in terms of date and number matching?

If I find anything on Matsu I'll let you know Bruce.

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OK Bruce,

I had a look through DAI NIHON TOKEN SHOKO MEIKAN 1942 and found two MATSU companies in the sword/fittings/polishing trade. I only saw two companies doing this named Matsu....Matsukawa  and Matsumoto. These were:

1. -  Advert for Matsukawa shop in Nagano, page 68

2. -  Advert for Matsumoto shop in Tokyo on p.186

And also an article about a Matsumoto involved in swords:

3. -  Article on Matsumoto - Half page article on page 180 (3rd page). This man is involved in the sword business in Fukuoka and it mentions Rikugun Tosho etc.

 

Here are pics of their shop adverts and this article.

 

Just to be sure about accurate translating, rather than me doing it and "missing" important meanings etc, I think this is a translation job for Moriyama san, or Morita san, or Nick Komiya.

I'm sure you would love to get to the bottom of this "Matsu stamp" mystery Bruce, so can I hand it over to you to "organise"?

 

Regards....

Matsukawa dai nihon token shoko meikan 1942 p.68.jpeg

Matsumoto  dai nihon token shoko meikan 1942 p.186.jpeg

Matsumoto article   dai nihon token shoko meikan 1942  p.180  c.jpeg

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nick Komiya, at Warrelics, has posted a synopsis of his reading 3 books recently obtained from Japan that have information on the RJT system.  I'm posting it here for those who may not be able to read his post on that site.  For those who can, it is HERE.

 

"It took more than a whopping 4 months, but the books sent me by sea mail from Japan finally arrived yesterday.

They are (1) History of Seki city’s Blade Industry, (2) Rikugun Jyumei Toshoh and the Gunto manufacturing association of Aizu Domain (3) Ohmura’s book on the Japanese fighting sword.

They were all quite cheap, as two were second hand anyway, so I had bought them in the off chance that they might help with the sword markings questions that Bruce had been raising in the past year.

I already read most of the RJT book, and leafed through the Ohmura book, which confirmed it to be pretty much a concise rehashed version of his website. So here are my preliminary findings.

1. RJTs of Aizu
This book from 1994 of 186 pages devotes the first half discussing how the blade smiths of farming tools and carpentry tools of Aizu Domain (current Fukushima prefecture) formed an industry association in 1940, which came under government supervision, as part of the national plan to control every aspect of the economy. Then in 1942, the 1st Tokyo armory called upon the Fukushima prefectural government to ask the industry association for volunteers that would like to become Army Designated Gunto Smiths (RJT) in return for free supply of Tamahagane, charcoal, draft deferment and preferential treatment with food rations. The book shows examples of application forms and correspondence relating to this program.

In 1944, 11 RJTs and 15 polishers formed their own Gunto manufacturing association, apart from the former tools industry association.

Until reading this, I had the impression that the RJT program was mainly intended to bring existing sword smiths under the Army’s roof, and provide them with incentives to be more productive, but the real aim was more ambitious, to make swordsmiths out of smiths, who previously only had experience in making farming and carpentry tools.

The latter half consists of family profiles of the RJT smiths largely based on interviews. Interesting episodes like a smith solicited by both the army and navy, using different trade names depending on who the customer was. Smiths could make good money selling to antique dealers, as an “under the table” source of income besides the military, so smiths applied false names as Mei on these black market supplies. Thus identical swords made by the same smith could have a different Mei.

There is also the story of Shigetsugu Wakabayashi, a smith that moved his family to Manchuria in 1937 and succeeded in developing the Koa-Isshin Mantetsu Sword with Prof. Kusaka. He returned to Japan in 1941 and became a RJT.


2. Seki blade industry book
This book is nearly 1200 pages and covers the blade industry of Seki starting from the Stone Age, so I don’t think I’ll ever read this whole phonebook. Unfortunately there is so far no mention of the Seki stamping that supposedly served as hallmark of quality for Showa-to. Introduction of stringent quality control and product guarantees are mentioned, but no specifics about markings.

3. Ohmura book
I am far from being his fan, but a 242 page book for only $15 was just too cheap to pass up. So far, I’ve only skimmed through it to see what it said about the star stamping, as Bruce had led me to believe that this author was claiming that the star stamp was only allowed for RJTs. However, Bruce must have misread the Ohmura site, as he clearly indicates that the star was an army material inspection stamp, and even when a sword is made by a RJT, it would not have the star stamp, if distributed for sale without going through army channels.

Stringent specs were provided in 1942 for RJT sword supplies to the army (document that Bruce posted earlier in this thread), and if an RJT delivery to the army was found not to be in full conformity with these points, the swords were rejected and returned without any star stamp. These would have been released to the commercial market by the smith without being blessed with the army star. So the star stamp meant Tamahagane was used, in so far as the sword was being supplied through army channels.

By the way, he mentions 4 names as main suppliers of Tamahagane.
1. Yasukuni Tatara
2. Teikoku Steel of Hiroshima
3. Toshiba
4. Akita Steel Works"

 

Note: I've replied to Nick, concerning his feeling that I had inferred that it was Ohmura who made the claim that the star stamp was exclusive to the RJT program - not so - It is from my survey of over 60 star-stamped blades that I've made the observation that the star is only seen on blades made by RJT qualified and approved smiths.




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Hi Bruce, good info...thanks to you and Nick for posting.

Book 2  on the Aizu RJT (called in Japanese "Gunto Kumiai Shimatsu - Rikugun Jumei Tosho no Shuen" published by Aizu Bunkazai Chosa Kenkyu Kai 1994)...was sent to me a few years ago by Morita sama...good info

The "stringent specs' of the RJT scheme are those pages I translated on RJT swordmaking rules...also sent to me by Morita sama. These are on Brian's interesting publications page.

 

I note that the scheme was said to be intended to help metal workers/tool makers become swordsmiths....this is probably an outcome, but I think most RJT smiths had already risen to that level from toolmaking when the RJT scheme was announced

I say this as my RJT smith blades by

Niigata Munetoshi (and his bro, Akihisa) of the Kasama school,

Nagao Kunishiro of Aomori,

Nakata Kanehide of Seki of Watanabe school etc.,

Tsukamoto Masakazu of Fukushima (Aizu)of Kasama school

had already become properly trained smiths when the RJT scheme was announced.

Reading their histories, only Masakazu's family were "in tools" prior to him beginning his study in swords c.1936.

I know my sample is small, but there are no smiths among them who were described  as being taken from tool forges and trained in swords...all did their 4-8 years of apprenticeship in swords.

 

keep up the good work,

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13 hours ago, george trotter said:

Book 2  on the Aizu RJT (called in Japanese "Gunto Kumiai Shimatsu - Rikugun Jumei Tosho no Shuen" published by Aizu Bunkazai Chosa Kenkyu Kai 1994)...was sent to me a few years ago by Morita sama

George, that explains why his info seemed to match what you had already done with the reg translation.

 

"The most interesting part, to me, was the story of smiths making gimei and selling them to antique dealers.  I asked Nick for more on that and he said:

The "under the table business" occurred, because the antique dealers offered much higher prices than the army. It would have been better profit, even if the smith had to pay the army the full price for the materials. In those days, the government froze all prices for commercial goods, but antiques obviously were not under government price control, so selling under that category must have become a loophole not to be bound by the army's fixed prices. One RJT admits they sold lots to antique dealers this way. "

 

"Those days, retail price for swords at Kaikohsha was 120 yen, and the RJT got paid 50 yen out of this and 23-25 yen went to the polisher."






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