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Old 11th June 2021, 07:04 PM   #1
Norman McCormick
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Default A curious Japanese? sword

Hi,
First of all as I know next to nothing about 'samurai swords' I always stay away from the rarified minefield of Japanese steel but I unintentionally picked up this odd Japanese type sword as nobody else seemed very interested in it. A crudely mounted 59.6 cm Wakizashi length blade with an overall length of 82.3 cm and a scabbard length of 68.8 cm. Everything is tight and the hilt peg hole aligns perfectly with the most forward one in the tang. The blade fits snugly in the scabbard and firm thumb pressure eases it out of the scabbard ready for drawing. The tip as you can see is swollen akin to armour piercing type points on some Indo-Persian weapons. The blade has been bent at some point and straightened and there are mild ripples in the blade as a consequence it also has numerous nicks on the edge. There is in hand what appears to be a hardened edge but I'm having difficulty capturing it on film. This sword does not pretend to be what it is not but I am curious as to why what I think might have been a reasonable blade in its youth has such crude fittings. Of course it may not be Japanese at all. The obvious other choice is Chinese fakery.
A forumite has kindly given me some suggestions but I am keen to hear some other observations.
Regards,
Norman.

P.S. I have added a close up of the tang which appears to show file marks and the peg holes are not drilled but look to have been made using a punch/drift.
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Last edited by Norman McCormick; 11th June 2021 at 10:29 PM.
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Old 11th June 2021, 10:30 PM   #2
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From the way the handle is wrapped and the quality of fittings, I believe this is a Satsuma Rebellion sword. Low quality, but real
Japanese sword. Can't tell much from blade pics, but seems (?) to have some sort hamon (temper line). Tsuba(guard) is likely cast, not "crafted". Best I can do. Hope you can find more. Try Googling Satsuma Rebellion swords.
Rich
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Old 11th June 2021, 11:01 PM   #3
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Certain elements remind me of what I've seen on a number of Korean swords of the latter Joseon period (18th -19th cent),
1, The style of grip wrapping, sometimes with even wider braid.
2. Simple sleeve-like ferrule and pommel of rather thin metal
3. Radiused edge at the tip without the yokote or perpendicular delineation at the the apex of the typical angular kissaki on a shinogizukuri configuration blade.
4. The very narrow spine created by a marked taper of the blade cross-section above the shinogi ridge. Perhaps coincidentally, I've seen an identical cross-section in a Bukharan saber in the Moser Collection, in profile the blade looked almost double edged in that extreme example. 'Don't know if it's a continental affectation, although a couple of Chinese examples have come to my attention over the years; they are not common and the Bukhara manifestation is the only instance of that type I've seen so far from that region.

Last edited by Philip; 11th June 2021 at 11:24 PM.
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Old 11th June 2021, 11:19 PM   #4
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Hi Rich and Philip,
Many thanks for your insights. The Korean idea did momentarily cross my mind in my mental search for other societies with similar weaponry to Japan and I think it is an avenue worth exploring. If any more detailed photos would help with your thoughts please let me know.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 11th June 2021, 11:59 PM   #5
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I don't believe this is a Japanese sword.
The shape and tip of the nakago, the not perfectly straight filing marks, as well as the rust covering them are giveaways.
However, I am not very knowledgeable about Japanese swords and would advise you to post it on Nihonto Message Board forum.

https://www.militaria.co.za/nmb/
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Old 12th June 2021, 01:55 AM   #6
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G'day Norman,
Unfortunately this isn't Japanese and is probably a Chinese fake. Nothing about the tsuka (handle) is Japanese, the tsuba is crudely cast, the nakago is very crudely finished, blade geometry all wrong and the notches where the habaki fits don't line up. I don't know anything about Korean swords, but most likely a Chinese wall hanger.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 14th June 2021, 03:19 PM   #7
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Hi,
Check out the 'habaki' on the sword at about 8min 46 sec, it appears to be offset. The 'habaki' on mine closely follows the contour of the blade and certainly looks like it was made specifically for this blade.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf8KFkEd4oQ

Regards,
Norman.

P.S. Also how the wrap is finished at 3 min 12 sec.
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Old 14th June 2021, 05:21 PM   #8
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Hi,
Screen shots of the relevant bits, also notice the strip of material in the centre of the grip similar to the 'snakeskin' in the centre of mine. Also notice the 'misalignment' of the notches on one of the other swords. The sword with the equal notches is double edged.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 14th June 2021, 08:12 PM   #9
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Hi,
A modern Korean sword made for martial arts. Note the offset 'habaki'.

I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that my sword is a distinctly Korean construct and probably has nothing to do with Japan. I will continue to seek more information and post as and when. If anybody has any more thoughts on the subject please let me know.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 14th June 2021, 08:51 PM   #10
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Hi,
Close up of the 'habaki' and point of a 19thC Korean Hwando. The tip looks as if it has a slight swell. Obviously a much more upmarket version.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 16th June 2021, 02:40 PM   #11
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Hi,
Some more Korean sword information and images.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 22nd June 2021, 05:03 PM   #12
Peter Andeweg
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I agree with the mentioned above, many characteristics compared to the Korean swords I have seen. Its a nice one, some are rather crudely made even by governmental manufacturers.

Here is an interesting website, of which one had been mine for a while.

http://www.swordsofkorea.com/swords.htm

Best regard, Peter
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Old 22nd June 2021, 07:06 PM   #13
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Hi Peter,
Thanks for your insight on this sword. While searching for images of Korean swords I think I came across the one you had.
My Regards,
Norman.

Last edited by Norman McCormick; 22nd June 2021 at 07:47 PM.
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Old 17th June 2021, 01:44 PM   #14
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Hi Philip,
Many thanks for your continued interest in this sword. With your suggestion that Korea may be worth investigating I wrote to Mr E.Lee of swordsofkorea and today I received this answer.

Hello Norman,

I believe the sword to be mostly Korean. The blade is Korean based on the shape and the tang. The handle also appears to be Korean made but Korean swords usually always have two hangers (like a Tachi). Few may have no hangers but hardly with a single hanger like this one. The scabbard reminds me more of a Gunto sword. The tsuba is bit unusual and probably more Korean than Japanese. The scabbard hardware is rather plain except for the tsuba so it probably had better and more stylistically correct mounts In the past.

This would not be a government issued sword (for a soldier) in the present form but most likely an individual that assembled it based on parts he had access to.

Regards,
E. Lee

I have replied to him with some further questions but I would think this is proof enough of the the origins of this sword.

My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 17th June 2021, 03:28 PM   #15
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Which proves an important lesson: two experts,- three opinions:-)
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Old 17th June 2021, 11:49 PM   #16
Philip
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick View Post
Hi Philip,
Many thanks for your continued interest in this sword. With your suggestion that Korea may be worth investigating I wrote to Mr E.Lee of swordsofkorea

My Regards,
Norman.
You're most welcome, am glad that thanks to Mr Lee you have corroborating information that will help to better appreciate this piece. And not have to write it off as a knockoff or wallhanger!

I recall from the catalog of a museum exhibit of such weapons that the name for this style of sword (actually a saber due to its curved s.e. blade) is byeolwung'geom (please forgive the spelling, I may have missed a letter since Korean is about as alien to me as Hungarian!)

Even if your example is not in the princely class of Korean swords as you can see in the University Museum in Seoul, the Volkenkunden in Leiden, or the Smithsonian, you are very fortunate to have any Korean sword in your collection. They are quite scarce, as are polearms, armor, and matchlocks. The "Hermit Kingdom" was always of small-to-middling population even by European standards, never engaged in imperial expansion, and was extensively disarmed under Japanese colonial occupation (1910-45), not to mention the losses inflicted during the Korean War in the following decade.

Thanks for sharing what has turned out to be quite an interesting sword, and have enjoyed the lively discussion that it has engendered.
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Old 18th June 2021, 01:08 PM   #17
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Hi Philip,
I am delighted to have such an unusual piece in my collection although it is not of the courtly variety. I think that ordinary pieces have an extraordinary story to tell if we could only prise their history from them. I have sent more detailed photographs and had further correspondence with Mr Lee and he is of the opinion that the blade is 18th/19thC and it and the guard did not start life in the present mounts. He has also confirmed that he has seen single ring scabbard mounts although they are not common.
My Regards,
Norman.

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Old 1st July 2021, 06:33 PM   #18
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Hi,
An example of similar utility fittings on another Korean sword.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 1st July 2021, 06:34 PM   #19
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Hi,
An example of double hilt fixing on a Korean sword. The pommel cap is missing but it looks as if it could have been of a similar variety to mine and the sword in the previous post.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 1st July 2021, 06:42 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick View Post
Hi,
An example of similar utility fittings on another Korean sword.
Regards,
Norman.
This is a typical rank-and-file military sword (saber, actually) of the late Joseon period (ending 1910). It is called hwando. Not all types of Korean hilts were made with cord wrapping on the grip but this variety generally had braid wrap as seen here; note that the material was wider and knotted differently than the Japanese pattern which it superficially resembles.

On [Ihwando[/I], of which there are several subtypes, there is a combo of Japanese and Chinese design elements. The grip wrap and the habaki are representative of the former, and the suspension system of two bands and a perforated bar along the dorsal edge of the scabbard is Chinese. Some hilts had a flaring oval "mandarin hat" pommel in the Qing fashion. Blades, depending on subtype, are a blend of stylistic traditions. This scabbard is covered with a coarse fabric which is lacquered-over, this is typically Korean manufacture.
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