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Mysterious documentation

Article about: Dear Forumites, you know from my previous thread that I have a shin-gunto Type 98 officer's katana. I have been going through a lot of effort to address the few shortcomings of that war reli

  1. #1

    Default Mysterious documentation

    Dear Forumites, you know from my previous thread that I have a shin-gunto Type 98 officer's katana. I have been going through a lot of effort to address the few shortcomings of that war relic and will continue with that project as far as necessary.
    At one stage of the work I was confronted with the decision if I should withdraw the wooden scabbard from the leather combat cover. Some opinions held that one should leave well enough alone. To cut the story short, I gingerly executed the task and it came out unscathed. The tip of the scabbard looked a bit weird, as it seemed there was some kind of blockage sitting there and forcing the two halves at the tip to gape open. When I removed the kurikata (is that right? the band and ring for attachment to the wearer's belt), the full length of the two halves of the scabbard came apart. The type of glue used seemed to have disappeared over the years. But this coming apart allowed me to remove the blockage I had seen at the tip.
    Please see the pic of the tip of the scabbard, with something like a dirty extrusion peeping out.
    Jan.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Mysterious documentation  

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    I do not support this kind of forensic autopsy on items of history and will excuse myself from further participation in threads in that direction.

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    Rice glue [続飯 sokui] is used to bind the scabbard halves together.

    Video showing how to make sukui
    Step-by-step photos here.

    -- Guy

  4. #4

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    I respect Nick's stance, although I must admit as writing is one of my interests, I frequently make use of the forensic autopsy style. Second, because I have to limit my screen time due to an eye problem, I have to break my contribution up into separate posts. The nitty-gritty of what I have to share will develop in the next posts.
    Guy, thank you for your insight on the rice glue.
    A correction: in my opening post I used the term kurikata wrongly, I think. Ashi seems to be the correct term, pertaining to the band and ring of a shin gunto scabbard.
    To continue: I prized the dirty plug out from the end of the scabbard and was about to discard it, when I had second thoughts. I found it consisted of paper, so tightly squashed up that it seemed solid. Using a pair of tweezers, I painstakingly separated the layers, trying not to tear any of it. But it had become so gunky, perhaps from dubbin or oil, that it was impossible to keep it in one piece. In the end I did manage to open it up, and found to my surprise that it was 270 x 245 mm in size, when spread out.
    Please see the pic of the spread-out paper next to the sword and scabbard.

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    When I saw the "plug" that I dug out of the end of my scabbard was a piece of paper, I became excited, overly perhaps, and naively, and it was as if I willed the paper to tell me a little bit about the provenance of my sword. Would there perhaps be some Japanese script on it, which, when translated, could open up research possibilities? I could not get it smoothly straightened out and had to be satisfied with making out disjointed fragments of text in the English language and photographs of which the detail was totally unrecognizable.
    Barring one missing quadrant of the nearly square piece of paper, the edges were smooth and I could conclude the paper is a leaf out of a magazine and not a newspaper. With a lot of patience, the use of a tweezer and by looking through a variety of magnifying lenses, I found the pages were numbered 5 and 6, page 5 consisting of a big photograph with its accompanying caption, and a column of unrelated text on the side. Page 6 consisted of three photographs side by side, each with its caption. I could make out only bits of the text the leaf contained, but none of the pictures.
    The pic shows the leaf in as smooth a shape as I could manage to get it.

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    I searched for a year date on the leaf, as that would be an indication as to when the paper had been inserted into the scabbard, but no luck. I then concentrated on making sense of the first of the photo captions, and after a lot of effort I copied the result:
    "Andonea, an orphan of Athens, is thirteen years old. Her mother was killed by a stray bullet; she had not heard from her father, who disappeared during the occupation. Waiting to be accommodated in an orphanage, she and her little brother Alkis have lived with their grandmother in shocking conditions. While there are as yet no orphanage vacancies, UNRRA remains responsible for what little these dead-end kids of Europe receive. Andonea now lives in the Beggars' Asylum, which means a roof over her head and a little food."
    Now I am able to conclude that the text refers to the German occupation of Greece during WWII; also that the wording of the text points to the occupation and the magazine issue being contemporaries. UNRRA refers to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, an international agency supported by 44 nations, active during the years 1943 to 1947. The Beggars' Asylum was situated in Kaissariani on the outskirts of Athens. Food was provided for the waifs, but no schooling.
    UNRRA records show that Andonea's last name was Rotas; her brother was seven years old. Police picked them both up when they were out on the streets begging to help support the grandmother, and sent them forthwith to the asylum.
    A caption on the page opposite reads:
    "(Andonea's) story illustrates conditions not only in Greece, but in many countries in Europe. There are children like this in a dozen countries, reduced to near starvation, without clothing, without friends."
    I cannot make out the photos, but all four do show bedraggled Greek war orphans, one certainly the girl Andonea. I can only offer a similar contemporary pic of a Greek orphan below, taken at the time of the occupation.

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    My detailed investigation into the crumpled piece of paper that had been wedged into the tip of the wood scabbard has brought me to a point where I can formulate some answers to the many questions in my mind. It remains to be seen if you guys agree with me! Please tell me where I'm going wrong.
    Why was the paper plug put in the scabbard tip in the first place? Was it not to act as a wedge to help steady the blade tip in the scabbard so that it could not rattle?
    When was the plug put into the scabbard? Was it not during the years 1943-1947, the same time as the issue date of the magazine? If the owner had done the job say, ten years after the war, he would surely not have had such an old magazine conveniently lying about.
    Does it reveal anything about the previous owner? Britain is often mentioned in the text, as well as the name of Mr Churchill. So it could be a British magazine and not an American one - which means the owner might have been a British soldier and not an American GI.
    How did the owner get to possess the sword? Was it during an organised surrender parade? These took place not only in Japan but also in many other places like Malaysia and China.
    My paper wedge is silent about anything else. No real provenance is presented. Without provenance, assumptions and imaginings don't count.
    So for now my sword's origin remains a mystery.
    I'm done. I'd love to hear some opinions or knowledge you guys might want to share.
    Jan.

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