New Collector

Hello, I discovered this site while looking up information on three swords I recently collected which effectively jump started my collection into something that I am really proud to own.

I have however little knowledge of the vast number of swordsmiths that have spanned the history of Japan to make these remarkable pieces of weaponry. I'd like help identifying the history of these swords.

Sword 1: Showa era WWII Naval Officers sword. Theres what's been translated to a date on the other side and this is a picture of the signature. (first two attachments)

Sword 2: Showa era WWII sword. Its got kanji on the tsuba that I think translates to Ienaga Yamato, but am unsure. Signature will also be included. (Second two attachments)

Sword 3: Shira Saya Sword. I Know these became popular around 1867 but the signature is the only identifier and its got me scratching my head. No clue how old it is or who made it. (Last attachment)

Any help with these would be great! Thanks!

naval_sword_full.jpg127.5 KB
naval_tang.jpg129.34 KB
naval_sig.jpg132.37 KB
naval_sig_2.jpg135.07 KB
naval_date.jpg131.08 KB
naval_date2.jpg129.85 KB
naval_blade_closeup.jpg134.51 KB
showa_full_shot_of_sword.jpg125.04 KB
showa_tang.jpg129.38 KB
showa_sig_better.jpg130.79 KB
showa_tsuba.jpg127.09 KB
showa_blade_closeup.jpg132.94 KB
shira_sword_full.jpg128.79 KB
shira_tang.jpg128.55 KB
shira_blade_closeup.jpg129.67 KB
shira_saya_sig.jpg130.61 KB


Hi and welcome!

It would be helpful to have a look at other parts of swords in order to identify the maker. Would you be able to upload photos of the blade surface, full tang, and also another side with the date? Full length photo would also be good to look at. You may do it by clicking 'Edit' above your post, or 'Upload new images'.

Also you mentioned Shira Saya Sword. I'd just like to clarify what you mean?



Thank you very much for response. I've included a full shot of each sword (disassembled) a look at each swords tang, and a close up of each blade. For the "Naval Officers" sword I've included two shots of the dates (I've been told its dated somewhere around 70 years ago).

As for the last sword, the "Shira Saya" I apologize if I'm calling it by an incorrect name. It is made up to look like one piece of wood when it is closed, easier to conceal. My understanding is that the "Shira saya" was used only as a temporary saya during the sword making process, at least before the wearing of swords was forbidden in 1876. After that the saya became more common to wear because it was easier to conceal (no tsuba, looked like a walking stick). The thing that has me so interested with that particular sword is its unknown age and the pattern in the sword itself, which you can see in the close up.

Any information you can provide would be excellent. Any other pictures I can take to help with its identification I will make quickly.



Hi Cam,

Sorry, I didn't mean to be picky about terms. I just wanted to make sure I understand what you mean as it seamed more relevant to the so called 'cane swords' (looks like a walking stick) rather than shirasaya. Now the pictures have spoken a thousand words and I know what you meant.

Shirasaya are mountings for storage only. It can't be used in combat as classical shirasaya has halves glued with rice (for easy cleaning) and would simply break into pieces on impact.

Now, I have some bad news. Unfortunately, your swords appear to be fakes. The last one, the shirasaya sword is a typical modern fake. The first two seem to be of the most recent variety of 'better' fakes. If they had military mounts, I'd nearly think of them as war-time oil-quenched blades (there's still a possibility that they are, as it's harder to judge from photos and I'm not an expert in military swords, but I very much doubt so). But fittings don't match the description and of poor quality. Either way, they are not authentic Japanese swords made by traditional methods.

You may find this article helpful.


not so fake??

Hi Stan,
I'm not so sure that the first two are fakes. I could certainly be wrong, because when I was active in collecting (20 years ago), there really weren't any Chinese-made fakes yet.
Things I see:
"naval_sword_full" - the kodugu looks reasonably like real wartime stuff.
"naval_tang" - may have polisher's marks in the habaki area (under the glare).
"naval_sig" - the signature is not known to me, but could be read "Yoshishige" perhaps.
"naval_sig_2" - is clearly a Seki stamp, and it's in the right place.
"naval_date" - the date is 1942 (Showa 17 nen).
"showa_sig_better" - the signature is "Jumyou". Someone said he was the sensei of Fujiwara Kanefusa (I have a Kanefusa blade). I have no idea if this example is genuine or not.
"showa_blade_closeup" - other than being a Showa-type blade, the only problem I see is that someone used steel wool or sandpaper on it to "clean" it (a common problem).

The "shira saya" blade definitely looks bogus to me.


red saya

BTW, the red saya on the 2nd blade is very suspicious.
The color seems way too bright and gaudy to be correct.

Regarding the "naval" blade: I don't see anything that would make it a "naval" style.
The WWII military mountings have features that can be called "army" or navy", but yours has 'civilian' mounts from what I can see.

The two tsuba on your blades appear to be cast soft-metal (brass, bronze, etc.). If they are really from WWII, then they would be an 'upgrade' that the soldier paid extra for. But they could be modern-made, which is not so good. Years ago, some folks in the U.S. were making similar tsuba by making molds from "real" tsuba. They sold for something like $10-15 each.



One more thing: In "naval_blade_closeup", the hamon looks too 'crisp' - it may be acid-etched...?
If so, it's a bad sign.

Maybe Stan's right after all...? It could be that the "better" Chinese fakes are really closer to the real thing than I thought...


Actually the one that you

Actually the one that you both are sure of being fakes is not that surprising to me. It actually makes sense in hindsight, but I didn't pay too much for it so I'm not that worried.

The other two though I need to be more sure of, I'm fairly certain the sayas for both are probably not original. They look gaudy... like you said.

As for the use of polish and whatnot on the blades that wasn't me who did that. I'm new to this whole ordeal but I know not to do that. I'd like to really figure out just what I got here, I'll be real disappointed if they were both fakes.

Any suggestions on where to go from here?

how to learn more

To learn more, your best bet is to find an experienced collector in your area that can see them hands-on. As with anything, be careful of "dishonest" folks who will say that your stuff is junk, and offer to buy it from you for a low price.

Even better, if you are near a big enough city to have a collector's club, then go to their meeting. If there is an doubt about they see in your blades, it will probably cause some lively debate, and you will learn a lot in the process.

Are you willing to say where you are?




I am currently living in Sierra Vista, AZ about an hour SE of Tuscon. In a month I move to the Tacoma, WA area.


Hi Pete, Cam,

Chinese fakes have definitely got much better recently. You may see them on the boards. Geometry is much neater, real signature's copies, stamps etc.

I'll explain why I think they are fake ('naval' and 'showa' swords). First of all, if they are real, they must be WWII time made swords, so I'd need to present arguments why they aren't.


  • Hamon looks very much like acid etched
  • Polisher's marks under habaki: this is unusual for a military sword, isn't it? Especially as it's not freshly polished.
  • Nakago ridge line is not straight
  • Overall impression


  • Hamon looks much more real (argument against the fake hypothesis)
  • Hamon returns too soon when approaching nakago (see showa_tang.jpg)
  • Ridge line on nakago is very wobbly
  • Edges of mekugi hole are rounded with a file
  • Second mekugi hole
  • Mountings are not original and composed of recycled items or reproductions. Seppa (washers) have holes for saya locks from gunto. Why would somebody remount the sword from gunto? To do martial arts? Also, the sword looks very heavy and chunky for either military or sporting use.
  • Saya surface is rather uneven for Japanese made (see showa_full_shot_of_sword.jpg)

As you may see, the arguments aren't very strong. It would be much easier if we looked at the blades in person. Also, as I mentioned, personally I'm not an expert in WWII swords (many of them weren't of great quality on the first place) and maybe I'm over-judging them.


I agree

Thanks Stan,
I definitely agree with you now.
And yes, polisher's marks are rather unusual on a WWII-vintage blade. I used to have one - but it was a Yasukuni Shrine blade from 1942 by Ikeda Yasumitsu, so it was top-quality for that time period.
I'm glad to have learned about the relative quality of the fake blades - I really had no idea. I thought that all the fakes were more like the 3rd blade...
On the "naval" blade, it was the super-clear hamon that really finished it for me. It's similar to the fake "display" blades sold at cutlery shops (here in the U.S.).



Well thank you very much. I was hoping to begin my collection by starting here, but this is really disappointing news.


Hi Cam, It must be indeed

Hi Cam,

It must be indeed disappointing, but it shouldn't discourage you from collecting. I'd say most of us had similar experience in the beginning. My first sword was a fake too. The real things must be good if they are so worth faking :-)

By the way, I'd still verify if the other 2 swords are indeed fakes with somebody who can look at them in person. It's most likely, but still not 100% clear based on photographs.