Is there a samurai sword expert in the house?


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willbrink
June 19, 2008, 12:59 PM
I had read that during WW2 the Japanese often took authentic 16th and 17th century samurai swords and cut them down. Toward later in the war, they didn't have metal to make swords of the length and such they wanted, mostly for officers, and cut down many beautiful swords and put new handles on them.

Later in the war, they, melted many swords for bullets. Some families managed to hide their heirlooms, but the population were brain washed and did what they were told. That's what I have read regarding the history of these swords.

Can someone confirm or deny?

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hso
June 19, 2008, 01:05 PM
No to all.

RyanM
June 19, 2008, 01:34 PM
Definitely no. That would be like France melting down all their Rodins to make shell cases and bullet jackets.

I believe a few (very few) officers did carry heirloom blades rather than issued ones, however. They may have had a new handle put on themself, so they could leave the original at home. Those are reasonably easy to remove and replace, they're just held on by a bamboo peg and friction fit.

rcmodel
June 19, 2008, 01:47 PM
+1 to all the above.

An accidently broken Katana sword might very well have been reworked into a shorter Wakizashi or Tanto blade.

But to destroy an heirloom sword to make bullets or fighter planes?

Nope!

They were considered not only almost like religious symbols, but national treasures as well.

I always wondered how many heirloom swords, handles, and fittings were lost in the fire-bombing raids during WWII when whole cities were burned?

rcmodel

RyanM
June 19, 2008, 02:31 PM
Forgot to mention, Japanese officers were expected to purchase their own handguns, so it wouldn't surprise me if some of them chose to carry personal swords, though I don't know if guntos were issued, or if they had to purchase those as well.

willbrink
June 19, 2008, 02:43 PM
Well, I got this response from one of the collectors on the blade forums:

"yes, there have certainly been old blade found in shin-gunto mounts. There have also been old tachis that were shortened and eventually found their way into shin-gunto mounts. Some of said swords even found their way back to the United States following World War II. I've never heard the one about melting the swords down for bullets, that seems rather unlikely. The quality of shin-gunto swords did decrease as the war went on but so far as I know they were made right up to 1945."

So, the idea is not as black and white/yes no as it might appear. However, how common the practice was, is unclear.

JShirley
June 19, 2008, 02:53 PM
I would say it would be rare for an heirloom to be deliberately "cut down"

Old swords in military mounts did happen.

Never heard the bullet thing, and I'm very skeptical.

John

CWL
June 19, 2008, 03:00 PM
I have a late-war forged sword. The blade is very high quality and is still in medium polish and sharp after 50+ years. There does not appear that any corners were cut in the forging and polishing of this sword.

The fittings are crap as they no longer had the money or resources to get quality materials. From the badly cast guard & fittings to the quality of wood, rayskin and wrap, there was no time or effort to do much more than assemble everything and ship it out.

I also have a 'mystery' sword which appears to have been a cut-down tachi. The curvature of the blade is very strange for a katana. No markings or signature on the tang, although there is a second (original) hole there.

willbrink
June 19, 2008, 03:13 PM
Said collector also said:

"These days the fantasy of finding an ancient blade in shin-gunto mounts seems to be one of the driving forces behind selling shin-gunto swords (and fakes of them) on ebay."

Clearly, it happened and happened more often it appears most people realize, but whether or not it was a common practice is unclear, at least for me at this time. Will look into it more.

hso
June 19, 2008, 03:20 PM
"These days the fantasy of finding an ancient blade in shin-gunto mounts seems to be one of the driving forces behind selling shin-gunto swords (and fakes of them) on ebay."

That may or may not be one of the driving forces for ebay sales. There are always rumors of some treasure being found at some sort of flea market, but I think most people buy swords for other reasons.

CWL
June 19, 2008, 03:41 PM
"These days the fantasy of finding an ancient blade in shin-gunto mounts seems to be one of the driving forces behind selling shin-gunto swords (and fakes of them) on ebay."

As a further caveat, ALL the Japanese swords sold from China on eBay are fakes.

There are entire villages in China devoted to manufacturing pattern forged damascus fakes.

xx7grant7x
June 19, 2008, 04:21 PM
whats a fake go for? It'd be kind of cool if the fakes are at least of decent blade quality and more affordable, if they're scamming them as originals i suppose they'd want those kinds of prices too...

hso
June 19, 2008, 04:30 PM
You're better off getting a Paul Chen than one of the Ebay pieces.

DannyinJapan
June 19, 2008, 04:45 PM
During the Edo period, (1600-1860s) laws were passed retricting the length of swords the non-samurai could wear, so many were cut down and remounted.
During the Meiji period many sabers were made by the govt. and some soldiers had their family blades cut down to fit the saber hilts.

During the War, many soldiers carried family blades, but they would not have needed much cutting down because those hilts were fairly standard sized.

After the war, thousands of swords were confiscated by the US.
Japanese people were using them to attack US soldiers and each other long after the war has ended. The blades were melted down to make kitchen knives and other household items.

JShirley
June 19, 2008, 05:22 PM
Hey, Danny!

Good to see you. Hope life in the U.S. again is suiting you.

John

DannyinJapan
June 19, 2008, 09:00 PM
Im glad to be back, but getting a job is damn hard here.
Maybe I'll enlist...

Samuel Adams
June 19, 2008, 10:52 PM
On a related note, a WWII Navy vet told me that he watch occupation forces dump thousands of swords and firearms into Tokyo Bay after the war. Anybody dive certified?

Brian Dale
June 20, 2008, 12:37 AM
Dang, Sam, that makes me want to get dive certified again.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
June 20, 2008, 09:13 AM
They were considered not only almost like religious symbols, but national treasures as well.

Akita dogs were also considered national treasures, and plenty of them were eaten for food. I'm not sure people realized just how brainwashed and how extremely desperate conditions there were in the latter stages of WWII. I don't know, but it would not surprise me AT ALL if swords were melted for any number of war components. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

theotherwaldo
June 20, 2008, 01:39 PM
I worked with one of the engineers that was involved in dumping weapons in Tokyo Bay. It was part of a set of land reclamation projects for industries and the US Navy.

The dumped weapons were buried in rubble and dirt in the process of making harbor-front islands. No way to recover any of the weapons. :(

DAVIDSDIVAD
June 20, 2008, 02:22 PM
To all of the "No to all of the above."

Umm, a lot of swords were cut from the nakago, and remounted.

It wasn't common practice but it was not unheard of at all.

hso
June 20, 2008, 05:59 PM
He specifically asked if it was practice during WWII. I've never heard of that happening during the war.

As you say, cutting larger swords and long tang swords down from the tang was not unheard of before 1900. After that I'm unaware of that being a 'normal' practice.

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