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Help With Kai-Gunto


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(cross-posted from SBG Forums)

 

I purchased this Japanese sword from an antiques dealer today for just under $600. I'm looking to get some more information on it. There's some interesting things about it. The dealer explained where he got it, has a very good reputation, and said that if I thought it was fake, I could return it. I don't think it is, but I'm not an expert and would love some assistance. Here's my observations:

 

-The tsuka is wrapped in leather, not ray skin.
-The saya is cedar and not lacquered at all. It's wrapped in leather, with one hanger. The rivets are marked in English and say "K. R. Tsurame". There's also some markings on the wood itself, under the cap that covers the throat of the saya.
- There's two mekugi.
-The tsuba and fuchi are both marked "448".
-There's an anchor arsenal marking.
-There's both a mei and a black written marking on either side of the tang.
-The blade itself is not very sharp, doesn't appear to have any hamon, even an ornamental one, but is in okay polish (I think), with only a few imperfections. I believe it's stainless steel.

 

Does anyone have any information they could tell me about this, and first and foremost, is it a fake?
Did I get a good deal?
What year it was produced?
What was the rank of the bearer?
What dothe markings on the saya and each side of the tang mean?
Thank you so much for your help!

Full Sword.jpg

Kissaki.jpg

Mei 2.jpg

Mei.jpg

Saya Mei.jpg

Blade.jpg

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Michael,

You have a Type 97 Navy Officer kaigunto.  Stainless (their version of it) steel, in "combat" saya.  The stamp is of the Toyokawa Navy Arsenal and the mark below seems to be a unique stamp tied to the smith - Inaba.  Others have tried to research this smith with little luck other that to postulate that it is Inaba Kaneyoshi.  You can see others by him on THE NMB THREAD.

 

The painted numbers are "4 4 8" and are put there by the fitters to keep all the parts together during assembly/manufacture. 

 

You can read more about the Type 97 on Ohmura's site: HERE.

 

There is no date on it, so all we know is that it was made during WWII.  Rank isn't known.  Even if it had a tassel, the Navy used all-brown tassels for all officer ranks, so no way to know.

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1 hour ago, Bruce Pennington said:

Michael,

You have a Type 97 Navy Officer kaigunto.  Stainless (their version of it) steel, in "combat" saya.  The stamp is of the Toyokawa Navy Arsenal and the mark below seems to be a unique stamp tied to the smith - Inaba.  Others have tried to research this smith with little luck other that to postulate that it is Inaba Kaneyoshi.  You can see others by him on THE NMB THREAD.

 

The painted numbers are "4 4 8" and are put there by the fitters to keep all the parts together during assembly/manufacture. 

 

You can read more about the Type 97 on Ohmura's site: HERE.

 

There is no date on it, so all we know is that it was made during WWII.  Rank isn't known.  Even if it had a tassel, the Navy used all-brown tassels for all officer ranks, so no way to know.

Bruce,

   WOW, thank you so much, sir! That's incredibly helpful. I've seen your name throughout these forums, and you always leave such helpful and insightful comments. I hope you know how kind and appreciated that is. Thanks again!

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  • 1 month later...

I'd like to circle back on my sword. It's been intriguing to me that the blade is very dull. Ha ha, the results of my paper-cutting test do not bear repeating here. Does the dulling of a blade occur naturally over time, and if so, would it have happened from the end of WWII to now? Or, if not dulled naturally, was it simply never sharpened? It makes more sense in the Navy than the Army to have a sword without a sharpened blade given seaborne duty, but this isn't a parade sword, and given the leather saya, it seems like this was at least intended for combat conditions. Does anyone have any thoughts or run into this before?

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I think you'll find that to be one of the great Unknowns, unless someone actually has some insight on the subject.  The only thing I know is that blades during peacetime were required to be dulled.  There was an actual regulation that depicted the dulling process.  But the only time that peacetime requirement actually applied to was somewhere in the mid 1930s and wouldn't have applied to your blade. 

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My wife hypothesized that it was un-sharpened upon order/creation and the officer never got around to sharpening it upon issue. Again, that makes sense in the naval context (not many needs/opportunities while underway), but it would strike me as adding an extra layer of work unnecessarily to have the sword purchaser sharpen it instead of the smith/factory upon creation.

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There is no such thing as Japanese sword sharpening. This is a product of the entire polishing process. To sharpen would mean an expensive polish. Unlikely anyone did that deliberately that was in the service.
They aren't razor sharp. Paper cutting is meaningless. If it has an edge that will cut when you run your thumb over it hard, that is likely all that was needed at the time.

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Interesting! That makes sense that there’s not an extra step. I’ve touched my thumb to it but haven’t pressed hard (for obvious reasons 😂 - it’s a Gunto and not Nihonto but “razor sharp” is always the buzzword you hear), but it feels like it couldn’t cut anything. I’ll have to do some more tests. 

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Michael you made a good deal with that sword. Don't touch it with a bad treatment. Leave it as it is and give it a good care to the next 80 years....

Don't play around with that sword - sharp or not it  is not important.

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If you’ve ever owned a pocket knife you know that every time you use it, it dulls the edge. So I wouldn’t try experimenting either. Each cut will add tiny little scratches to the surface of the sides of the blade as well.

 

I have only handled one stainless steel blade so I don’t know about them as a whole. But they may not get as polished or sharpened as a traditionally made blade. But that is speculation.

 

I also agree with Brian’s point that the paper cutting sharpness only happens after a modern professional polish. The war blades did not go through that kind of polishing.

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Woah, woah, woah everyone :) No, I don’t intend to go start whacking at trees etc. My idea of “testing” was using a replacement thumb to press hard, like a hotdog and cleaning it immediately afterwards. My mistake on the word choice; I imagine this community sees a lot of tragedies of the “testing” variety.
 

Aside from my being a good student of history, Id like to think I’m a good steward of history as well. If I wanted a toy, I wouldn’t be spending this much money on it. 
 

The importance of its sharpness is a historical curiosity, not a need to have it sharp today. It’s not a parade blade (correct me if I’m wrong), so why isn’t it sharp? You wouldn’t issue a gun that doesn’t fire. I don’t need it to be sharp, and with family at home, it’s better that it’s not.

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Hi Michael,

 

Sorry for jumping the gun, but you’re right some people do silly things with very nice swords. :)
 

I think this is one of those situations where your guess is as good as anyone’s.
 

With Kai gunto, whilst intended for use, it was perhaps the case that there was an awareness that there was little likelihood of it being used on a ship. The days of boarding other ships at sword point were long gone, so maybe these blades didn’t get the same degree of attention as army swords given the pressure to keep churning swords out during the war. 
 

It might have been actual policy or practice at the time or something as simple as the owner was about to miss his boat and didn’t make it to the work shop - some personal circumstance. We’ll probably never know, unfortunately. 

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John, totally fine! I think we all have an obligation to try to stop shenanigans like that. 
 

That’s exactly what my wife said about missing his ship's sailing. I suppose we’ll never know. Interesting to think about the officer who owned it. That concept and connection is part of the magic of this topic.

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I noticed the saya was of the single hanger variety, uncommon for the Type 97, but examples exist. I know that with the post-war souvenir swords that resemble navy swords, a single hanger is something to take note of in distinguishing it from genuine Type 97's, along with other components and characteristics of the sword. The example here certainly appears as an authentic Type 97.

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Bruce, that whole thread is great! Thank you for pointing me that way. Your research on the contract with the PX was so interesting! That certainly complicates finding authentic Gunto. 

 

The single-hanger confused me too at the antique store, but everything else seemed legitimate, and the price was so good, I went with it. The shop has another sword, this one Army, also for $600. I’m saving my money for the Token Kai and actually getting a Nihonto, but it seems a shame to let it go for that little, even though that one’s same and saya are a little worn.
 

At the modern Yokosuka U.S. Navy base, our version of the PX (the Navy Exchange (NEX)) has a Japanese souvenir section. Some of the goods are locally made and quite nice. Others, to include several junk Amazon-quality katanas, are not so good. However, my office had special cause to look closely at these swords after this incident happened: https://www.stripes.com/theaters/asia_pacific/sailor-convicted-in-drunken-sword-attack-on-bystander-at-yokosuka-laundromat-1.584777 . Always something crazy happening 😬

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483294884_20200506_100315(2).thumb.jpg.284e89d07b79064f47c0d83728318da2.jpg

This sword is an example of late war kai gunto regulation change. It has the single hanger, unadorned ishizuki and kashira , although the fuchi and koiguchi are adorned they were painted black along with all the fittings as per late war regulations. Kind of interesting how there were mixed variations depending on fittings available at the time...

 

Dave M.

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5 hours ago, Bruce Pennington said:

Dave,

Do you have a date on the blade in that?

Hi Bruce,

The only kanji on the nakago is Kyomichi saku , the Anchor stamp, and black paint I suspect are assembly numbers. No date that I'm aware of...

 

Dave  M.

 

2020-03-14 09.41.21.jpg

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Michael,

Your tsuka is almost, if not exactly the same as mine, I actually thought at first it was mine.

Have photo's, but am having difficulty loading them.

 

Dave M.                                                                                                                                            

 

 

2020-03-14 09.39.24.jpg

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On 7/5/2021 at 6:16 AM, ChrisAWilson said:

You lucky Dog,  for $600 you scored with that one!!! Especially for the shape its in, you could easily double your money if you got the notion to sell it. 

Chris

Chris, thank you! It was from a local antiques dealer that always has great stuff but usually far more pricey than things are worth. This time around, I got to turn the tables on them, and we both ended up with a deal (he cleared some space in the crowded front case, and I got a great piece of history). When he told me the price, I was taken aback, but I even managed to haggle him down $50. I think I'm going to hold onto it for awhile, as I love the Navy connection. Maybe some day though!

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