Deflating another Myth, The Type 3 Army Officer’s Sword (Expanded Version)
Article about: Deflating another Myth, the Type 3 Army Officer's Sword To thank this forum for inviting me as lifetime member, I offer you this expanded version of my original short article. Birth of the M
I applaud your research Mr. Komiya and thank you for sharing this insight into the war time workings of the Japanese military.
I would like to add a few relevant facts and figures which may help to further flesh out the situation surrounding gunto production during the war....
By the end of the war, it is said (Kapp and Yoshihara) that there were roughly 2.1 million Japanese Army and Navy officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, eligible to carry swords.
Swords carried by non-commissioned officers, the mass produced type 95, are said to have been supplied as part of the officer's uniform, by the military. These were made in the military's arsenals in Nagoya, Kokura, Osaka, and Tokyo. Production at the Nagoya Arsenal, in 1944, was said to have been 3,500 a month.
Swords carried by commissioned officers in type 94 and the Naval tachi mounting, are said to have been purchased by the officer. In the early to mid 1930's, there were several government sponsored or subsidized groups producing traditional swords for officers and sold through the Kaikosha, such as the Yasukuni Tanrenkai (Army) and the Minatogawa Tanrenkai (Navy), and numerous private groups producing traditional blades, such as the Nihonto Tanren Denshujo of Kurihara Akihide in Tokyo, the Okayama Prison Forge run by Chounsai Emura, the Nihonto Denshujo in Seki run by Watanabe Kanenaga, and many others.
In addition to these organized groups, there were several hundred smiths working across Japan. There was a cottage industry in Japan making fittings for the type 94 mounting and many companies produced swords for sale to officers on the commercial market. By 1943 there was a thriving market with hundreds of shops selling gunto, factories making gunto, mom and pop companies making fittings, etc. For a snap shot of this industry, see "Dai Nihon Token Shoko Meikan", published by the Nihonto Shinbun in 1943. It wouldn't appear that there was much of a shortage of gunto by 1943 if this book is any indication.
There was also a large number of civilian run factories producing showa-to, or mass produced, non-traditionally made swords, for use in the type 94 mounting. Also, there were many private companies making the type 94 mountings, such as Suya, and later, the "type 3" mounting.
Additionally, there were factories in Manchuria, both civilian and Japanese government run, producing gunto.
Despite all of this production, by the later 1930's, as the documents you have produced have shown, there was a shortage of gunto on the market for officers to purchase. I have to wonder if this shortage was of <b>affordable </b>gunto, rather than simply gunto, partly. When we look at the prices being charged at the time at the Army's Kaikosha for Yasukuni-to, for example, we see they were priced around 120 yen, which was a huge sum at the time. Even mass produced showa-to were 65-74 yen. No doubt this was a burden for new officers and surely being able to "rent" a sword, or being able to buy a much cheaper type 95 would have been welcome relief.
One also wonders if the Army didn't see a potential source of revenue being left on the table with the supply of officers swords left primarily to the commercial market...
We do know that the by the early 1940's, and until the end of the war, privately run factories and small shops in Seki were supplying 18,000 gunto a month (about 5% traditional blades, the rest showa-to) (Kapp and Yoshihara), which is said to have been 70% or so of the total gunto production countrywide. There were 350 "smiths" in Seki at the end of the war, and over 500 traditional smiths throughout the country.
By late 1942, the Army had instituted the Rikugun Jumei Tosho program, which was essentially a contract program that supplied tamahagane and charcoal to smiths countrywide to produce swords for the military. Each smith had to submit 2 blades for testing prior to being accepted into the program. These smiths had to produce swords to a vary rigid set of specifications. Each blade was inspected prior to acceptance and those passing inspection were stamped with a star (hoshi kokuin). Each month an Army inspector visited smiths, inspected and selected blades, and brought them back to the nearest arsenal for mounting. Additionally, several arsenals, such as those in Kokuka, Osaka, and Tokyo, had forges on site where traditional blades were made. Those made at the Tokyo Arsenal, for example, are signed "Tokyo Dai Ichi Rikugun Zoheisho". Interestingly, these star stamped blades are found almost exclusively in the subject of your post, the so-called type 3 mounting. Which, since they were commissioned by the army for their own sales, would make sense. The Nagoya Arsenal is said to have received 800 swords a month from that district's Jumei Tosho in Aichi and Gifu, for example. There were 200 or so RJT by late 1944. Assuming they produced roughly 10 swords a month, which is what Enomoto Sadayoshi, a RJT, told me he produced, that would be about 2000 a month nationwide.
I think it worth pointing out as well the two main types of these "type 3" mountings: those with olive colored tsukaito and metal saya, which always carry showa-to, and those with red/brown lacquered ito, and black lacquered wood saya, that seem to nearly always have traditional blades inside, and usually RJT blades.
Having collected gendaito for 30+ years and having spent 14 years researching this topic in Japan, I can't ever remember seeing a blade in a "type 3" mounting being dated earlier than Showa 17 (1942). I would be interested in seeing one dated 1940-1941....
Based on the production seen countrywide from roughly 1942 forward (roughly 25,000 swords per month), I would think there was sufficient production to meet demand for the most part. That doesn't include the number of older swords remounted for war service, which based solely on the numbers seen today, must have been a material number.
Hope this helps to add to the discussion...Again, thanks for your research. We see so little research done with original Japanese sources here in the West. Very refreshing....
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