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Item Description:

This is the tang of a World War II era Japanese sword, carried by officers in the Imperial Japanese military. It is stamped with the character 昭 (Sho), which is short for the Showa era (1926 - 1989). A signature by the smith is inscribed, and begins with "関石原義..." (Seki Ishihara Yoshi...). Info about why this sword may have been cut apart can be found below.

Katana and Wakizashi sword comparison

A daisho (pair) of a 18th-19th century katana (below) and wakizashi (above). The blade itself has been removed from its mountings and the bare tang is visible. Image credit: LACMA

Katana, wakizashi, and tantō: what's the difference?

These three types of Japanese swords are perhaps the most recognizable outside of Japan. The katana is a longsword first developed in the 14th century, with most examples having a 25 to 30 inch blade. They were typically carried as a matched set with their shorter counterpart, the wakizashi. These shorter sidearms usually had blades around 12 to 14 inches long. The dagger-like tantō was an even smaller sidearm with a 6 to 12 inch blade, making them well suited for close up combat.

Why were these swords cut into pieces?

These swords were most likely destroyed after Japan passed strict weapon laws in the 1950's. Under the new law, all mass produced swords were banned and traditionally crafted swords became highly regulated. People who owned antique swords were required to obtain a permit in order to keep them, a costly and time consuming process. Unfortunately this drove many people to cut their swords' blades down to less than 15 centimeters long, which made them legal to own without a permit.

How are these swords authenticated?

There are many details found on antique Japanese swords that are lacking in modern reproductions. Real handmade swords have a grain visible on the steel and a temper line called a hamon along the cutting edge of the blade. The dark rust on the tang helps to date the blade as well, as it can only be acquired with age.

The source is always an important consideration when authenticating any historical items too. We worked with an antique sword dealer in Japan to import these directly to the United States. Many of these pieces may have once been family heirlooms or were recovered after being put away in storage for decades, often hidden away in more rural areas which helped them avoid the bombings and Allied sword confiscations of World War II. Due to the sheer amount of swords produced by Japan over the last few centuries, many lower grade examples are surprisingly affordable.

All purchases include a Certificate of Authenticity. You will receive the exact items shown in the product photos above.


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