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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

  1. #11

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    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....

  2. #12

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    MAP, you were only victim to disinformation. Those who should have known better in this case are those Japanese Gunto-Bakas (those who are renowned collectors, and may know a lot about swords, but otherwise lack historical knowledge and common sense of how the army developed things, etc) that create quasi-authoritative history from paper thin collector gossip.

    A collector says, "I have never seen an example of this sword made before 1943". Another says, "Me neither. That is proof that they only introduced this sword in 1943."

    In the same way, helmet collectors are now saying, "I have never seen a late war navy helmet in small size, they must have stopped making them fairly early in the war." It spreads like school gossip and takes ages to get undone like the German jet pilot's helmet of WW2 or the Chinese collaborator's medal.

    Another fatal flaw in the Type 3 theory is that it assumes a way of doing business that simply does not exist on this planet. The Army held a big news conference in January 1941 to announce that the new sword was finally finished and annual production was planned to be 3000 swords per year, etc.

    Do the Type 3 proponents believe that the army made a public launch of the sword and only told the Emperor about it in 1943? On earth, whichever society you live in, you first need to get the chief of the tribe to agree to an idea before making it public.

    A product launch press conference held as the 1941 New Year's big event means all formalities of establishing a new sword design had already taken its full course before that date. The Type 3 proponents would actually be suggesting that the Army launched the sword by cutting out the top decision maker. On Earth, particularly in Japan that kind of undermining of imperial authority was punishable by several swings of the new sword.

    What to call the sword is a matter for collectors to decide, but the official name was Rinji Seishiki Gunto, so knowing that sword collectors have a penchant for exotic sounding Japanese, "Linji Model Shin-Gunto" (L is a more accurate pronunciation as R doesn't exist in Japanese) or "China Incident Contingency Spec Sword" are names faithful to facts of history.

    It's time for collectors to get out of bad habits.

  3. #13

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    Quote by nick komiya View Post
    MAP, you were only victim to disinformation. Those who should have known better in this case are those Japanese Gunto-Bakas (those who are renowned collectors, and may know a lot about swords, but otherwise lack historical knowledge and common sense of how the army developed things, etc) that create quasi-authoritative history from paper thin collector gossip.

    A collector says, "I have never seen an example of this sword made before 1943". Another says, "Me neither. That is proof that they only introduced this sword in 1943."

    In the same way, helmet collectors are now saying, "I have never seen a late war navy helmet in small size, they must have stopped making them fairly early in the war." It spreads like school gossip and takes ages to get undone like the German jet pilot's helmet of WW2 or the Chinese collaborator's medal.

    Another fatal flaw in the Type 3 theory is that it assumes a way of doing business that simply does not exist on this planet. The Army held a big news conference in January 1941 to announce that the new sword was finally finished and annual production was planned to be 3000 swords per year, etc.

    Do the Type 3 proponents believe that the army made a public launch of the sword and only told the Emperor about it in 1943? On earth, whichever society you live in, you first need to get the chief of the tribe to agree to an idea before making it public.

    A product launch press conference held as the 1941 New Year's big event means all formalities of establishing a new sword design had already taken its full course before that date. The Type 3 proponents would actually be suggesting that the Army launched the sword by cutting out the top decision maker. On Earth, particularly in Japan that kind of undermining of imperial authority was punishable by several swings of the new sword.

    What to call the sword is a matter for collectors to decide, but the official name was Rinji Seishiki Gunto, so knowing that sword collectors have a penchant for exotic sounding Japanese, "Linji Model Shin-Gunto" (L is a more accurate pronunciation as R doesn't exist in Japanese) or "China Incident Contingency Spec Sword" are names faithful to facts of history.

    It's time for collectors to get out of bad habits.
    Nick,
    Thanks for the official name, if you posted it earlier, or elsewhere, I apologize for missing it. I will begin using the term "Renji Seishiki Gunto" for this style. Communication is a horrible thing, I always say! Webster Dictionary has officially recognized the non-word "irregardless" simply because people say it!!! I've only been at this for just over 2 years, and the R-S Gunto, as well as the Late-war/possibly post-war/commonly called NLF Gunto have eluded our ability to label them with a name that is easy to use, and/or, a proper name them.

    If you say the "Type 3" was officially designated the Renji Seishiki Gunto then you have advanced our world and I appreciate it!

  4. #14

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    Matt & Sean,

    As for collectability - these seem to sell for the same price range as the Type 98, even though, as you point out, there were less of them made compared to the 98. Collecting is a fickle world and sometimes fads or impressions can drive a run on prices (like we have seen on the Mantetsu blades and NCO gunto). I have built my collection on the effort of getting 1 good representative of all the official variants of IJA and IJN officer and NCO gunto, but some guys tend to focus on particular types/variants.

  5. #15

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    Let's start right. It should be written RINJI SEISHIKI GUNTO, not RENJI and pronounced Linji. To be really accurate, the army did not call it anything but a gunto just like the felt field caps had no special name, so they called it descriptively "field caps made of felt".

    In the same principle, the army did not give the gunto any name, so if you needed to specifically refer to it you had to string adjectives together to describe it. "Rinji Seishiki" was how the Gunto was first described in the memo of 16th September 1938, so using that as an adjective clause, a Japanese would call it a Rinji Seishiki No Gunto, which is merely saying "Gunto designated as contingency specification".

    For instance, if you want to call the IJA's M44 short jacket by it's official name you have to call it "Jacket based on specially designated exceptions for the Greater East Asia War" as there was no other name for it.

    Contingency specs simply did not deserve names in the army, as they had only semi-official status and they were more like pirate editions of necessary evil. Ideally the army would have gladly done without them and preferred to go back to the official model as soon as the situation allowed. When they had the choice they limited supply to troops in Japan and supplied A spec items to the front.

  6. #16

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    Quote by nick komiya View Post
    Let's start right. It should be written RINJI SEISHIKI GUNTO, not RENJI and pronounced Linji. To be really accurate, the army did not call it anything but a gunto just like the felt field caps had no special name, so they called it descriptively "field caps made of felt".

    In the same principle, the army did not give the gunto any name, so if you needed to specifically refer to it you had to string adjectives together to describe it. "Rinji Seishiki" was how the Gunto was first described in the memo of 16th September 1938, so using that as an adjective clause, a Japanese would call it a Rinji Seishiki No Gunto, which is merely saying "Gunto designated as contingency specification".

    For instance, if you want to call the IJA's M44 short jacket by it's official name you have to call it "Jacket based on specially designated exceptions for the Greater East Asia War" as there was no other name for it.

    Contingency specs simply did not deserve names in the army, as they had only semi-official status and they were more like pirate editions of necessary evil.
    Harumph! I wish I could be a fly on the wall of a room in WWII where two IJA officers walk in and one is wearing a Type 98 and the other a contengency gunto, and we hear the guy with the 98 say "Ah, I see you bought a XXXXX gunto. How do you like it?" What would he have said as a name?

  7. #17

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    Quote by Bruce Pennington View Post
    Matt & Sean,

    As for collectability - these seem to sell for the same price range as the Type 98, even though, as you point out, there were less of them made compared to the 98. Collecting is a fickle world and sometimes fads or impressions can drive a run on prices (like we have seen on the Mantetsu blades and NCO gunto). I have built my collection on the effort of getting 1 good representative of all the official variants of IJA and IJN officer and NCO gunto, but some guys tend to focus on particular types/variants.

    Thanks.

    I'm more geared towards buying the best I can afford of each type. Not sticking to one particular model.

  8. #18

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    Some might have called it the sword with the Kansukemaki grip or even the 80-Yen special, but they would have gone blank if you said Type 3, that's for sure.

  9. #19

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    Quote by nick komiya View Post
    .... but they would have gone blank if you said Type 3, that's for sure.
    HA! No doubt! LOL! I like "The 80 Yen Special"! We say things like that to each other too!

  10. #20
    ?

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    Quote by nick komiya View Post
    Japanese Gunto-Bakas
    Ha!


    Tom

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