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Type 98 sword wooden scabbard late war?

Article about: Hello, In regards to collecting ww2 shin gunto, I was wondering about the origins and use of the wooden saya. From what I researched on this site and as well as other forums, any scabbard ma

  1. #1

    Default Type 98 sword wooden scabbard late war?


    In regards to collecting ww2 shin gunto, I was wondering about the origins and use of the wooden saya. From what I researched on this site and as well as other forums, any scabbard made of wood, aluminum, and iron with a leather combat cover means that it was modified for field use. correct? well how come on this site: 㔪REv Type 98 informality Gunto and a leather cover for field battle it says that wooden scabbards with leather "combat covers" are considered informal scabbards? any thoughts? I am still waiting for my book (Imperial Swords of Japan) to be shipped to my house, so unfortunately I cannot look this info up.

    For my second question, I want to verify if wooden sayas were strictly used during the late stages of ww2. I got a chance to view some pics of a sword with a wooden saya and mounts that would indicate it to be an early war example. The owner of the sword described the sword to be manufactured in 1941, but I could not make out the markings well from the photos to verify this. If what the owner says is true, then how could an early blade have a late war scabbard? could it be that the original saya was damaged and replaced near the end of the war? or has wooden scabbards always been around since the early parts of ww2/2nd sino war, thus eliminating the notion that wooden scabbards were ONLY around '44 and '45?

    Lastly, has any of you ever seen a tsuka without a ray skin cover? The handle of the sword I viewed has wrapping that appears to be period correct, but does not have a ray skin underneath the wrapping..... would this indicate a period repair job? I have heard that the ray skin can shrink if exposed to the elements too long. any thoughts guys?

    thanks in advance fellas!

  2. #2


    On the whole, wood saya is a mark of a late war issue sword. Earlier patterns find leather covered steel scabbards. One of the exceptions would be a true samurai mounting utilized for military use. The lacquer scabbard would be mounted with a band with a metal ring attached and then covered in leather to protect the finish and construction. It is certainly plausible that a tsuka was rewrapped in the field and the same possibly lost in between the time the wrap broke and was replaced. I would think something would be placed over the wood tsuka and under the menuki.


  3. #3



    I'm not sure what it is you seek to resolve with your first question but in answer to your second, no, I do not believe that always to be the case. Often, yes, but wood was used particularly if an ancestral blade was gunto mounted and taken to war. Ancestral blades were sometimes found in configurations that did not allow them to be carried in a one size fits all arsenal production scabbard.

    Your tsuka question brings up an interesting topic. I have seen numerous Type 98 Shin and Type 97 Kai-gunto, the vast majority of which had real ray or shark skin coverings on the tsuka. A few Kai-gunto however had canvas which I took to be period applied at time of manufacture. Late war Type 3 can also be found with imitation skin made of plastic. One Shin-gunto had leather which although very old and well fitted I took to be period but not of original manufacture. Were I to see wrapping over bare wood, which is what I think you are describing, I'd probably be inclined to think it was a repair. Skin can deteriorate and fall out. I've seen that before but it leaves the wrap loose.

    Keep in mind too that the Japanese entered China and other areas well before the start of their war with some western nations so the terms early, middle and late war can be interpreted a bit differently depending on the theatre.

    Hopefully another member will be better able to respond to your first question. I seem to have missed it ... Not an altogether unusual occurrence these days as I get older.

    PS: You will really enjoy the Dawson book if that is the one you are referring to in your post.

  4. #4


    This is a wooden Type 98 custom scabbard, lacquered maroon/golden-brown; I doubt it is late war:

    The current owner is a retired Japan Air Self-Defense Force [JASDAF; pronounced Jaz-daff] lieutenant colonel fighter pilot; the original owner was his adopted/foster father who was either a colonel or general. The father had to surrender the blade, so he surrendered the blade in a common field scabbard and saved this for posterity. The retired JASDAF pilot was in Yonen Gakkō when the war ended. The Rikugun Yonen Gakkō were schools mainly for officers' children and children of army soldiers who fell in action. Some candidates were enlisted men in active service under 25 years old; others were general applicants between ages 16 to 18 who passed an examination.

    I've never seen a handle wrapped without any sort of covering -- silk or rayskin -- over the wooden handle core. Yours looks to be professionally wrapped. The twists of tape [tsuka-ito] that form the lozenges are perfect and the knot looks to be professionally secured. My guess is that the handle was rewrapped in the field and no rayskin was available. The Japanese army did have contractor sword-repair services deployed to the field.

    ...[The swordsmith Shibata] Ka was what we would refer to as a renaissance man. He was born into wealth, was a martial artist and swordsman, schooled at university, was a sculptor and painter, and took elected office as well. Though he was a man of means, he also took up commission in the Army repairing swords on the front lines during the China campaign.


  5. #5


    hey thanks for all the help guys! I really appreciate it! I am learning a lot from all the info that is being posted up, so thank you!

    here are some pictures of the sword that made me started to wonder about the origin and use of a wooden saya. also, i have provided pics of the tsuka with the missing ray skin.

    any thoughts fellas? hopefully these pics will help support my question. again, thanks for the help guys!

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  6. #6

    Default Rant mode: Full blast

    Already answered HERE.

    At least mention that you've had responses on another forum-- and you're asking for second opinions; then provide the link. Perhaps you do not intend to do so, but just flip-flopping back and forth with the same sword/questions (without telling the second forum) is sort of a slap in the face -- at least I feel that way.

    I've witnessed this same situation multiple times now (not just you) ... and I feel it is just not right.

    I don't mind you asking a second opinion .... just give the full background to your new forum. Someone here might spend an hour researching that name, then find out it's exactly what I said it was on WAF. Don't cause someone else to expend his time needlessly.

    Does anybody think I'm being unreasonable and getting my nose out of joint for no reason?


  7. #7


    Hey you're right... I should of explained a bit more about any info I found out on another forum. I can see how somebody here can go through a lot to help out only to waste their time and repeat what I already know or or what another member told me. Sorry guys.... I don't have any intentions to harm... just wanted some second opinions on a different forum that may have differing ideas to what I'm speculating about.... again my humble apologies if anybody felt I was being inconsiderate. Ill try to be more mindful next time I post or start a thread.
    Last edited by rusted180; 08-21-2013 at 03:31 AM. Reason: Typo correction

  8. #8


    Thanks for understanding.


  9. #9


    Hey no problem! Thanks for calling me out to teach me forum etiquette! It'll make me a more responsible member here!

  10. #10


    I must agree with Guy on this matter.


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