Gunboards Forums banner
1 - 1 of 1 Posts

1,321 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Really Nice Gendai Sword by Ichihara Nagamitsu


Topic author: BradB
Subject: Really Nice Gendai Sword by Ichihara Nagamitsu
Posted on: 09/27/2006 11:48:09 PM
I have been looking for a "Nagamitsu" forged Japanese Officer's sword in excellent condition for years; pretty much ever since I started collecting Japanese military blades (can't afford the ancient ones). For whatever reason, Nagamitsu is one of the most recognized Showa era smiths. I found the sword I wanted at the Hampton show a couple of weekends ago. $$ in hand (from selling some things I really liked as well as some trade booty), I picked it up today. Please keep in mind I an no expert, but I can appreciate a nice sword and I would like to share it.

Nagamitsu was a Rikugun Jumei Tosho or Army approved swordsmith who made swords for the Osaka Army arsenal. He worked in the traditional Japanese style of hand forging and water quenching, making traditional or "Gendai" swords, mostly in the "bizen" style. Because of his proven skills, he was periodically allocated an amount of precious "Tamahagane" or purpose made high grade sword steel of varying carbon levels from which to forge his swords.
The bulk of Nagamitsu blades are found in 1944 pattern (incorectly called "Marine") mounts of this exact type. Most of the ones you see have been poorly preserved and are rusty or "Johnny" used it to swordfight the chain-link fence in Grandpa's back yard and chipped the blade.

The first photos are what I saw with cursory examination, (note the surrender tag, translation appreciated) followed by Nagamitsu's "mei" or signature (in this case, the three characters Naga-Mitsu-Saku or "Nagamitsu made"), followed by some close-up photos of the hada or forging pattern (a VERY prominent "itame" or wood grain pattern). The camera picks up far more than my naked eye, and I just discovered how to take these tonight. Cheap Chinese imitations use acid to etch similar patters that are far too obvious from a distance as well as generally making the blade dull and grey in overall color. I hope some of you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoy my new blade. Once the photos open, mouse to the lower right to enlarge them for best view.

Overall Sword
View attachment 10737

Download Attachment:
86.17 KB

Upper half
View attachment 10738

Download Attachment:
123.46 KB

Lower half
View attachment 10739

Download Attachment:
123 KB

Download Attachment:
84.24 KB

View attachment 10741

Download Attachment:
77.91 KB

Surrender Tag
View attachment 10743

Download Attachment:
160.91 KB

Photos of various areas of the blade showing the forging patterns or hada
View attachment 10746

Download Attachment:
112.95 KB
View attachment 10748

Download Attachment:
114.65 KB
View attachment 10750

Download Attachment:
163.99 KB

View attachment 10752
Download Attachment:
247.18 KB

View attachment 10754
Download Attachment:
242.5 KB

For some more thorough background on Ichihara Ichiriyushi Nagamitsu and his swords, here is a link.


Reply author: unleashedndest
Replied on: 09/28/2006 03:45:57 AM
Very nice find

Reply author: Clyde from Carolina
Replied on: 09/28/2006 05:35:56 AM
Beautiful sword, Brad. Amazing condition. Glad it's going to a good home.

Reply author: ShorinRyu
Replied on: 09/28/2006 08:33:27 AM
Looks mint Brad, nice find. Patience pays off.

Reply author: arisakadogs
Replied on: 09/28/2006 09:15:36 AM
That is a beauty Brad - congratulations!

Reply author: christian rifle
Replied on: 09/28/2006 12:36:02 PM
Wow !!

Reply author: Guntojim
Replied on: 09/28/2006 8:28:30 PM
Nice lookin' rig Brad, 'bout time somebody posted something other than another NCO or Arisaka blunderbuss

Reply author: Bill B
Replied on: 09/28/2006 9:06:32 PM
Brad , what a awesome ,beautiful blade !!! The fittings are super right down to the double release . I would think since his swords were rated one of the best for tameshigiri of the showa era, would make that extremely desirable . Great find and thanks for the pics Bill B

Reply author: 03man
Replied on: 09/28/2006 10:44:23 PM
Very nice, thanks for the education.

Reply author: 45Auto
Replied on: 09/29/2006 5:39:08 PM
A real treasure! It's been a long time since I have seen a Japanese sword even close to such fine condition.

1944 type mountings look rather nice for such a late date. Thank you for the education. Was there a point at which sword mountings became - well - cheap?, or were swords made and mounted well up till the end of the war?

Best regards,

Reply author: Otter
Replied on: 09/29/2006 8:10:57 PM
While I don't know a lot about swords...I didn't think or have seen more modern Japanese swords (c. 1890+) with Damascus (sp?) patterns in the blade. Yes, the Chinese ones did/do...not the Japanese.

Reply author: BradB
Replied on: 09/29/2006 8:15:02 PM
Great question. Here are some "basics":

Earlier in the war (1930s when Japan went to war in China up through 1942) most officer's swords were pretty fair quality in terms of mounts and blades. The "average" blade was an oil quenched blade of mid-grade steel that involved some working by hand but not the multi-layered water-quenched process from the prior centuries. Demand outstripped makers, and oil quenching was less likely to crack the blade (a very real risk with red-hot metal quickly cooled). There were still modern hand forged blades available as well as remountings of antique or family blades. Quality depended on your means, with a good blade sometimes costing several month's pay.

By 1943, steel production started to feel the pinch and there was a branch into two categories of swords... those made from Tamagahane or traditional steel and others being cranked out assemly line style at arsenals. By 1944, there was little to no middle ground. With the exception of some very late examples, the 1944 mounts were standard to the end of the war. There were also some swords made in the occupied territories by smiths that travelled with fielded armies, but these are rare. Most often what is passed as a field made sword is actually a souvenir sword made for the GI market. There were also smiths in post-war Japan that remounted swords of all types to sustain their income. Most gendai (traditional) blades in the 44-45 period are marked with a star near the blade portion of the tang. Nagamitsu blades are an exception.

In Japan today, only traditional swords are legal due to their artistic value, and you must have a permit.

Reply author: Edokko
Replied on: 09/29/2006 8:29:18 PM
Brad, excellent explanation. One additional two-bits about the permit in Japan, is that the permit or "certificate" issued by the police is to the sword and not the owner, so any sword hand made traditionally and has a certificate attached can be traded freely by anybody in Japan.
Most of the military swords or "gun-to" not 100% hand made and water quenched are basically non-certifiable by the police and hence illegal in Japan. Some Koa-Isshin Mantetsu blades have been known to be certified in the past though.

Reply author: BradB
Replied on: 09/29/2006 9:20:43 PM

quote: Originally posted by Otter

While I don't know a lot about swords...I didn't think or have seen more modern Japanese swords (c. 1890+) with Damascus (sp?) patterns in the blade. Yes, the Chinese ones did/do...not the Japanese.

Most modern Japanese gunto were not hand forged, so much of what you have looked at will not have several hundred layers as this sword does. If you look at most traditionally forged Japanese swords from more than a few centimeters away, the patterns are not discernable to the eye. This is particularly true with a wartime polish which was not done to highlight the character of the blade beyond final shaping of the blade and delineating the temper line.

However, when you look at them in the proper light and up close, you can discern an infinite number of patterns in hand forged swords (which, in combination with a proper temper is how a sword is judged and why folks collect hand forged blades in the first place). No two are alike. Some are tight, some like this one, are more open. Most smiths will work in a particualr style. If you notice the photos of my sword that start the post, from inches away, all you can see is the temper line (the chinese knock-off blades have clumsy acid etched faux-damascus patterns or poor forging with cheap steel but real damascus patterns visible from a good distance and a rough, non-shiny dull grey blade because of the absence of any polish which would cost extra and remove a good part of the "effect"). They also generally have poor lines and a badly shaped point. Her.e is an example of their "grain":
View attachment 10755
Download Attachment:
33.64 KB

Not to knock all Chinese made swords... there are smiths working in the traditional manner in China right now producing hand-forged, water quenched blades... but they are sold as that and not as fake antique blades (which are generally always gullible Ebay-er, low-quality crap).

On the Nagamitsu: most folks who appreciate traditional blades would actually recommend a polish for this one to REALLY bring out the pattern (the camera got 10 times more than my eyeball). But at $100 an inch and a one year wait for a Japanese polish, I am not likely to pursue that. There are some trained American polishers who will work for $65 an inch.

Reply author: BradB
Replied on: 11/18/2006 09:03:26 AM
Here is a closed auction for a similar Nagamitsu. Nice blades, and valuable.

Reply author: arisakadogs
Replied on: 11/18/2006 3:12:43 PM
Another nice loking blade!. I see that "wad" guy struck again!

1 - 1 of 1 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.