WW2 Bring Back Katana, Kanetane Signature

I am new to this club and hope to find some information regarding a WW2 Gunto "Bring Back" sword. I have seen many swords over the years but none grabbed me like this one did. It had a cloth tie-down placed there by the Japanese soldier that surrendered it.

And on that tattered cloth I was able to find out who that soldier is, Takaaki Yasuta (last name often translated to English as "Yasuda"), and some details about him. My research with the help of a Japanese library provides an interesting back story to this sword. He served in the IJA from 1938 to 1946 as a commissioned officer having fought in Northern China in 1939 and later trained young pilots on Formosa at the end of the war. He later became a member of the Japanese Diet in the Liberal Party and served on a commission for the peaceful use of atomic energy. He was a strong advocate against war, but said little about the war he fought, and also wrote a book of Japanese poetry. I have attached a photo of him taken in 1983, also with notations on the back of that photo. He must have been a rather important man in the post war history of Japan. He was born on September 17th 1916 and died on July 20th 2009 as an honored citizen of Ishikawa Prefecture.

I have attached photos of the sword as I received it and the cloth tie-down finally unravelled after over 70 years. This sword was in storage since WW2 never touched,till the day it was sold. But the blade is absolutely beautiful, no nicks, no rust and razor sharp with a very distinct wavy hammon.

Now the question on the sword. The cutting edge (Ha) from the tip to the copper-brass collar is exactly 24" in length (61cm). The nagasa, the measure of length is 61.5 cm. The curve of the blade is more pronounced toward the tsuba and lesser toward the point. So the peak of the curve is not centered on the blade but toward the tsuba.

Removing the Tsuka I discovered that it is apparently a very old sword, certainly not WW2 vintage. And with the short tang I thought that it might be Wakizashi. There is an inscription on it that several have translated as "Echizen ju Kanetane" and when I checked a graphic of the sword types ( have attached it) the sword looks very much like the one in the middle from the late Muromachi Era. Now here is the problem: If this sword was made by Kanetane, which one? The sword looks like the type from the Muromachi Era, and according to what I have found here there were two Kanetane's in the Muromachi Era, with several others in the Edo.


I find these these two entries confusing as they have the same Kanetane signature, the same information, yet the date range between the two is about 40 years apart. I have attached a photo of the inscription on the tang for further confirmation of its maker. Is it the earlier Kanetane in 1532-1555 or the later one in 1596-1615?

As for the blade itself, I was told it is a Wakizashi, but others have told me that it might be a uchigatana. But with a nagasa of 61.5, well over two shaku, this sword is within line of a katana, and it could very well be a uchigatana as it also has a short tang (nakago).

This is my first post and I know it is a lot to look over, but I really would appreciate some opinions on this really nice G.I. Bring Back stored for 70+ years... My first Japanese sword.


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Hi, I would suggest that it might be hasty to assume that it is Muromachi simply because the shape resembles your "evolution" picture. Those shapes are rather broad guidelines, at best.
Also, it's hard to tell from pictures sometimes, but your nakago (tang) appears to have a lot of modern (red) rust. That could just mean that the old patina has been lost/damaged due to recent rusting, or it could mean the blade is not very old (i.e. 20th century).
Your assumptions may actually be correct, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. Be careful...

BTW, The shape of the tip of the nakago is a classic Echizen/Kashu style, with a straight angle on the same side as the cutting edge.

As for wakizashi vs uchigatana: Yours is right on the border between katana and wakizashi based on the length, but there is no hard-and-fast rule. If it was worn in combination with a longer blade, then it's a wakizashi. By itself, it could be called a katana. It really doesn't matter.
Also note that blades of about that size were popular in the 17th century (etc.) with merchants and such.




The tang is actually more toward the black rust than the orange. The artificial lighting I used in taking the photo tends toward the red. But there are some orange rust spots on it especially around the hole, which obviously was exposed more to the weather.

The signature was looked at by several "experts" who are also well known sellers of Katana, and I was given the same response. Kanetane as the swordsmith (Echizen ju Kanetane), and that the signature was in their opinion authentic. Kanetane is not a signature that is known to be faked.

But the thing that I find confusing is the date range for Kanetane as stated by others and here on this web site. One for 1532-1555, the other for 1596-1615. Is it the same man "Echizen ju Kanetane" and just a confusion of the dates, or is it two men, a father and later a son both using the same signature?

Also the fact that Takaaki Yasuda, a officer of the Imperial Japanese Army who served from 1938 to 1946, tied this sword with a cloth tie-down that he wrote on. And then at the time of Japan's surrender surrendered it to US forces.

That cloth and the writing on it give me and others that translated it the impression that it was important to him. The implication being that it could be returned to him one day. If it were simply a 20th century Gunto sword (with a fake Kanetane signature) why would he have done that? The presence of the tie-down with his writing implies that the sword was a heirloom passed down in his family, not a run of the mill WW2 Gunto blade.

I also noted that the hardware on this WW2 Gunto have no serial numbers.



More comments below. This is somewhat "devil's advocate", so don't be offended.

"... and that the signature was in their opinion authentic."
To say that the signature is "authentic" means that they know which specific smith it was. Since they didn't tell you which one, I would say that the signature is unverified. Note that it could be made by a student of one of the better-documented smiths.
It's true that not-so-famous smiths were usually not gimei. The reason for doing a gimei was so that the maker could sell it for a higher price, but you probably have to use a famous name for that to work.

If you can find a fairly close match between your signature and one of the well-documented smiths, then you can be somewhat confident that yours is by the same guy. Otherwise, yours could be by a not-well-known student, or someone not even part of the same 'school', and you may never know the details. But as I told someone else yesterday, don't get hung up on signatures. Appreciate the blade for what it is.

"Is it the same man "Echizen ju Kanetane" and just a confusion of the dates, or is it two men, a father and later a son both using the same signature?"
It is common for multiple generations to use the same "art name", and sometimes the exact same signature. "Kanetane" was very likely not a real name, rather an "art name" (like a pen name). Across generations, it could be either a father-son relationship, or teacher-student, but they both signed the same (in this case). With the better-researched smiths, it is "known" that certain students were actually the son of their teacher.

"Also the fact that Takaaki Yasuda, a officer of the Imperial Japanese Army who served from 1938 to 1946, tied this sword with a cloth tie-down that he wrote on. And then at the time of Japan's surrender surrendered it to US forces."
That means the blade was at least somewhat important to HIM; it doesn't prove that it was a "family heirloom".

"If it were simply a 20th century Gunto sword (with a fake Kanetane signature) why would he have done that?"
Agreed generally, but it could maybe be because he spent a lot of money to acquire it.


Pete,I did not ask each of


I did not ask each of the persons which one it was, as at the time I did not know that there were other Kanetane's that made swords. What I do know is that they translated it correctly "Echizen ju Kanetane" in each case, and stated that the signature looked or appeared to be authentic, each giving me a date of 1596-1615.

It was later when I began to find out more about Kanetane that I discovered the date disparity in the signature here on this site (Hawley 15 KAN2460 & Hawley15 Toko Taikan ¥3M 93 KAN2462; both 越前住兼植 the same 5 figures on the tang of my sword).

So, my quest now is to find other tang examples that have the signature "Echizen ju Kanetane" with the same signature 越前住兼植. (I noticed one element of the "tane" (植) looks upside down on my tang, and that is what I will be looking for as a clue in perhaps resolving this question.)

As for soldier Takaaki Yasuda, as the library in Ishikawa revealed, he was born in 1916, wrote a memoir and a chapter of which he outlines his service from 1938 to 1946, and served in the Japanese government after the war. I was also told that he had a daughter and a grand daughter and that both are still living. The cloth gave me enough information to track him down, even after his small home village near Ishikawa city had changed its name 70 years ago. It is hard to speculate the reasons for him to write down the details that he did on that cloth. At the very least it shows that he was quite "attached" to this sword. And that the cloth he wrote on remained with the sword for 70 plus years is quite amazing, too.

But this I know, looking at the sword, the tang, its signature, the tiny flaws in the blade, the shape of it, its length... It all points me to the Muromatchi Period, and not much after.



After much research I firmly believe that this is a Koto sword (Old Sword) rather than a Shinto Sword (New Sword). At 61cm (24.01") with signature facing out with cutting edge up this is a Katana and not a Wakizashi. It also has a short tang typical of Muromachi Period Katanas. Koto swords were produced during the Muromachi Period and it has all the characteristics that one would expect of swords produced during that period. This sword was produced by "Kanetane Ten Mon" who signed his swords as "Echizen ju Kanetane" after he moved from Mino to Echizen at the request of Asakura Norikage in about 1501 AD. Asakura Norikage (朝倉 教景?, 1477 – September 23, 1555), also known as Asakura Sōteki (朝倉 宗滴), was a Japanese samurai warrior of the latter Sengoku Period. So I firmly think that this sword was made between 1501 to about 1530 and maybe later as it is noted that the first Kanetane from Mino lived during Asakura's reign which ended in 1555.

See: http://www.sho-shin.com/hoku5.htm

After the first Kanetane who came to Echizen from Mino in 1501 there were a long line of Kanetanes who produced swords into the Shinto Edo Period that began after 1596. So there are some Koto Muromachi Period swords from Echizen of which I am sure I have one.

minor correction

You wrote:
"At 61cm (24.01") with signature facing out with cutting edge up this is a Katana and not a Wakizashi."
What you should have said is that it is "signed katana-mei" (not "signed tachi-mei"). The nomenclature of katana vs wakizashi is still flexible, but it is perfectly fine to call it a katana. As I mentioned before, if you were to wear it in combination with a longer blade, then it is a wakizashi in that case.


Re: minor correction


From what I read during the Muromachi Period the lengths of Katanas were variable between 24" and above with signatures that could be on either sides. ("signed katana-mei" or "signed tachi-mei"). It was not till the Edo Period that these details, lengths and signature locations became more standardized.

Keep in mind I am new this and have a huge amount of study ahead of me.

At any rate this sword that came my way has really captivated my interests.



This is sorta nit-picking on details, but note that "24 inches" was not a unit of measurement in Japan. The "rule of thumb" was (I believe) originally 2 shaku, which is about 23.9 inches.

I am reminded that in some time periods (Edo, I think), the 2-shaku distinction was important if you were NOT of the Samurai class, because folks like merchants were allowed to wear a single shorter blade, and I think 2 shaku was supposed to be the limit. I believe this is the explanation for the relatively large number of "almost 2 shaku" blades out there.


research idea

Idea: It would be interesting to examine a bunch of kanteisho (authentication) papers, and see what words they use to describe the blade vs the length. And compare what was written pre-WWII vs post-WWII.
This would be a fairly objective way to see what nomenclature is actually used by high-level experts in Japan.


[ I have this pair of swords for sale:
Available as a pair, or individually. ]


After much research I am now convinced that this sword was made by Kanetane (KAN2460) in the years 1532-1555. Also the nagasa length of 61.5 cm (slightly over 2 shaku) makes this a katana (uchigatana)and not a wakizashi. The short tang (nakago) and shape of the overall blade also coincides with katana (uchigatana) styles in the late Muromachi Period. Because of this, I have also changed the Title description.

These are my observations of characteristics of this sword which have required quite a bit of study to discern:

Nagasa: 61.5 cm
Kissaki: Chu-Kissaki
Sori: Bizen Sori (The high point of curve closer to the Nakago than toward the Kissaki)
Boshi: Kaeri Buku
Hammon: Gunome o Midare
Nie: Kinsuji
Hada: chu Mokume hada
Nakago: Ha-agari Kari Jiri (6.8” or 17.3 cm length)
File Marks: Gyaku taka no ha (uncertain due to mostly black rusting)
Mune: Gyo no mune (takashi) (uncertain though as it seems high)
Fumbari: (Thickness from Nakago tapers down toward Kissaki)

I think that this confirms that it is a Uchigatana as the measurements are correct and most likely it is a late Muromachi Era Koto blade, likely made by the earlier Kanetane (KAN2460).

Comments for or against my observations are welcome. I am no expert at this and might be wrong, but I did extensive research to come up with these results. I can snap closeups of the details if needed.



Just a tweak on your use of "Nie: kinsuji".
Nie and kinsuji are both/each possible features of a hamon.
I see that the glossary here on Nihontoclub says that kinsuji is made of nie, but I tend to disagree.
My understanding is that kinsuji refers to a type of visible "line" in the hamon, but does NOT specify that it is "nie".
Nie are martensite crystals that are generally big enough to see with the naked eye (as tiny 'dots').
By contrast, "nioi" is similar, but the crystals are so small that you just see a whitish 'cloud'.

So, I would drop this "Nie" line, and instead change the hamon line to say "Hamon: such-and-such, with nie (if appropriate) and kinsuji".

Also: Unclear what you mean to say by "gunome o midare".
Midare can be translated as "irregular", and is a very broad term for any pattern that is NOT repeated the same way on a centimeter-by-centimeter basis.
Gunome can be translated as "pointed"; where the broad alternative is "choji" (a rounded, bulbous shape).
The "O" grammatically would mean "big", but "big midare" sounds a little odd. However, "ko-midare" (small irregular) is a common usage.
Perhaps you meant to say "ko-midare"?

From what I see in your pictures, I would say perhaps "notare" (waves).