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Old 4th February 2013, 08:38 PM   #1
dana_w
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Default Need Help Identifying This Tantō

This is the first of two Tantō Daggers that I am trying to learn about. I would appreciate any comments.

The overall length is 15 5/8 inches. The blade measures 9 3/16 inches from the tip to the guard. The weight with the scabbard is 9 ounces.

Thanks Dana

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Old 4th February 2013, 08:58 PM   #2
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Post 1883 Commissioned officers naval dirk. In use up until 1945.
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Old 4th February 2013, 09:32 PM   #3
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Thanks Atlantia, Using the info you provided I was able to located one a lot like it.

Last edited by David : 4th February 2013 at 11:33 PM. Reason: Sorry Dana, no links to commercial websites allowed...
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Old 4th February 2013, 11:29 PM   #4
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This is the second of the two Tantō Daggers that I am trying to learn about. I've been told that it was for use by Kamikaze pilots in WWII.

The overall length is 9 inches. The blade measures 5 1/4 inches from the tip to the guard.

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Old 5th February 2013, 01:22 AM   #5
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NOT LIKELY FOR USE BY KAMACAZI PILOTS AS THEY WENT DOWN WITH THEIR PLANES SO NO NEED FOR SEPUKU. AND IF YOU CHICKENED OUT NO DOUBT YOU WERE NOT ALOWED TO REGAIN YOUR HONOR VIA SEPUKU.
SOMEONE MORE KNOWLGABLE CAN GIVE YOU MORE INFORMATION ON THE DAGGER BUT THE KAMACAZI PART SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD STORY WITH LITTLE LOGIC.
EITHER WAY A COUPLE OF NICE DAGGERS.
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Old 5th February 2013, 02:41 AM   #6
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The story goes something like this:

"Knives were carried by Kamikaze pilots for the purpose of suicide. They were intended for use in the rare case that the pilot survived his intentional crash into an enemy ship or building or whatever target he was supposed to destroy. These pilots had prepared themselves for death and to allow themselves to live would have been considered the ultimate cowardice in their culture. Traditionally WWII Japanese Kamikaze pilots were treated to luxuries, exotic foods, even sex for a short period before their mission. To be treated this way and then not follow through with the oath they had taken as Kamikaze pilots would be unthinkable. For this reason they often carried a simple unadorned tanto, sometimes with a prayer inscribed on the blade."

"Two out of three of the kamikazis got shot down and didn't hit a ship. If they weren't killed immediately they didn't have to wait to drown or be captured. That was the idea. Whether any of them were ever used for their intended purpose or not, it was what made you a kamikazi."
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Old 5th February 2013, 10:34 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dana_w
This is the second of the two Tantō Daggers that I am trying to learn about. I've been told that it was for use by Kamikaze pilots in WWII.

The overall length is 9 inches. The blade measures 5 1/4 inches from the tip to the guard.


I've not seen any genuine military dirks or tanto like this, just plenty of Chinese fakes. Officer and kamikaze dirks in my experience tend to have either plain wood grip and scabbard, or lacquered, or leather covered.
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Old 5th February 2013, 12:14 PM   #8
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These are problematic at best.
I was examining a similar 'dirk' a few weeks ago and whilst beautifully made with a striking hamon, the overall feel didn't seem right for a wartime piece.
It also had the complete shark/ray skin cover, but I remember that the joins on the skin seemed slightly 'ragged' and ugly. I actually disassembled it and the tang seemed artificially aged.

I would be interested to see your piece taken apart if you don't mind?

The definately genuine examples are in my limited experience mounted in plain wood, or even more rarely leather covered. (sometimes in a linen or leather cover/bag).
The one's I've seen also have 'flush' collars and not the tapering ones that your's has.

So, as a background on these, they certainly DO exist, although for obvious reasons they are rather rare.
The 'Kamikaze' (Divine wind/God Wind) pilots were allowed to carry a small Aikuchi dagger to allow him to slit his jugular vein in the seconds before impact.
Clearly the practicality of being able to do this while under heavy fire from the ships and wresting with the controls to stay 'on target' is debatable at best and it's unlikely that many pilots managed to say a prayer and slit their own throats and still hit the target.

However, that hasn't lessened the 'legend' of the Kamikaze and the demand from collectors for their 'dirks'.

As with all 'suicide bombers' the psychological effect, fear and damage to morale that they engender in those on the recieving end cannot be underestimated.
Bearing that in mind it's easy to understand why the 'Kamikaze dirk' has always been a desirable and sought after item.

After the war, when Japan was occupied and awash with American servicemen looking for souvenirs, I've often wondered if some of these 'more elaborate' Aikuchi were produced as 'letter openers' and sold to servicemen with a 'wink and a nudge' (or whatever the Japanese equivilent is).
That's just a thought, I have no evidence to back it up as I've never really attempted to look into it.

One thing is for sure. There are a lot of similar fakes that have come from China and continue to do so.

So! Is it a Kamikaze dirk?
I'd say not.
Could it be small non-military Aikuchi? You'll need to take pictures of it in pieces and wait for those who collect such things.
Or is it a later 'post war' souvenir?

Last edited by Atlantia : 5th February 2013 at 02:24 PM. Reason: correcting spelling typos
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Old 5th February 2013, 12:22 PM   #9
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Sorry, but it is not a kamikaze tanto, just an aikuchi (guardless) tanto. For more info on Japanese military tanto see my page at:

http://japaneseswordindex.com/dirks.htm

Possibly a kwaikan (ladies sleeve tanto) based on size and simple same' covering. Not ruling out a late tourist knife or even Chinese fake however.
It needs to be seen up close and personal to tell.

Rich S

-------------------------------------------------------
Richard Stein, PhD

Japanese Sword Guide
http://japaneseswordindex.com/nihonto.htm
http://home.earthlink.net/~steinrl/nihonto.htm

"Never go anywhere without a knife"
- Leroy Jethro Gibbs
-------------------------------------------------------

Last edited by Rich : 5th February 2013 at 12:50 PM. Reason: add info
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Old 5th February 2013, 06:30 PM   #10
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Thanks everyone!

Here are three more photographs. If you can you give me any tips on removing the pin, I will photograph the tang.


The photos are copyright (c) 2012 by Dana K. Williams, All Rights Are Reserved
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Old 5th February 2013, 07:02 PM   #11
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Did it come from the UK?
The peg should just push out from the narrow side (I assume the side not standing slightly proud). I suggest using a matchstick and be careful.
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Old 5th February 2013, 07:52 PM   #12
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No, it didn't come from the UK. My Dad picked it up at a gun show in North Florida eight or nine years ago.

The fit of the peg / pin is too tight to just push out. I may be able to tap on it with a punch.
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Old 5th February 2013, 08:19 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dana_w
No, it didn't come from the UK. My Dad picked it up at a gun show in North Florida eight or nine years ago.

The fit of the peg / pin is too tight to just push out. I may be able to tap on it with a punch.



FWIW, I use the skinny end of a chopstick as an awl/punch and a rubber or (better yet) a wooden mallet to tap it out.
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Old 5th February 2013, 10:34 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by laEspadaAncha
I use the skinny end of a chopstick as an awl/punch and a rubber or (better yet) a wooden mallet to tap it out.


Thanks for the tip laEspadaAncha. I will eat at Pei Wei tonight (that is not an commercial endorsement David) and grab some extra chopsticks.
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Old 6th February 2013, 01:58 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dana_w
Thanks for the tip laEspadaAncha. I will eat at Pei Wei tonight (that is not an commercial endorsement David) and grab some extra chopsticks.

Well it is Dana, but as long as you don't provide a link you're OK...
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Old 6th February 2013, 04:27 PM   #16
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Ok, I used the skinny end of a chopstick and a rubber mallet, but I can only move the pin a little less than half way. Any suggestions.
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Old 6th February 2013, 05:16 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dana_w
Ok, I used the skinny end of a chopstick and a rubber mallet, but I can only move the pin a little less than half way. Any suggestions.



Sure - punch it out the rest of the way.

These mekugi are made to be slightly tapered, so if it's come out halfway, removal shouldn't be an issue... If it's stuck, then maybe you're trying to force it out from the wrong side?
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Old 6th February 2013, 06:09 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by laEspadaAncha
Sure - punch it out the rest of the way.


I just needed to use a little more persuasion.
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Old 6th February 2013, 07:34 PM   #19
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While the hamon appears to be legit, i.e., the blade looks to be differentially hardened, there are plenty of differentailly hardened contemporary - and commerical - katana that would make a nice template form which to make one of these... With that in mind, I see a couple 'red flags' right off the bat... the displacement between the mune machi and the ha machi appears extreme IMO, and while at first glace I would think this to be a cut-down katana - which would explain the mekugi ani having been drilled through the mei - the mei wouldn't have existed where it is if this were the case...

Maybe reduced from the machi and re-profiled and re-tempered (not sure if or how the kissaki could be reprofiled though or if this is even done) ?

Another concern I have is that the patina inside the kanji looks new relative to the patina of the nakago, suggesting (again IMHO) it is gimei.

However, please accept my input as being worth exactly what it cost...

And please understand I am only looking at this as if I were considering it for myself, which means (especially when it comes to nihonto) I am looking at it with an awfully critical (and even somewhat skeptical) eye.

I look forward to hearing what Rich has to say about this, as he is the resident authority on nihonto.
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Old 6th February 2013, 08:33 PM   #20
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Dana, the tanto is a modern reproduction, I have seen this type for sale quite often. Your WWII dirk is also called a "tanken".
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Old 7th February 2013, 03:07 PM   #21
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I will look around and see if I can find matching example of the "reproduction" tanto / aikuchi / tanken.

Is there anyway to put a production date on the officers naval dirk? Is it worth removing the handle and photographing the tang?
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Old 7th February 2013, 05:05 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dana_w
Is it worth removing the handle and photographing the tang?


In a word, no.

The blade in the officer's dirk is almost certainly (read: certainly) not nihonto, and is more appreciable and desirable left as-is.
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Old 7th February 2013, 10:27 PM   #23
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Ok, but

Quote:
Originally Posted by dana_w
Is there anyway to put a production date on the officers naval dirk?
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Old 8th February 2013, 07:16 AM   #24
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To be honest, that's a good question, Dana... As I understand it, this pattern is still issued in the Japanese navy to this day.

With some Japanese military-pattern edged weapons (e.g., Type 30 bayonets and Type 95 NCO swords), arsenal marks, serial numbers, and/or acceptance stamps can sometimes be used to narrow down a date range with varying degrees of success. There should be arsenal marks or acceptance stamps on the crossguard of your dirk.

Another clue may be found in the same grips. Is the grip of your exmaple made with real or synthetic same? If synthetic, it dates to late-WWII or later.
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Old 9th February 2013, 03:17 PM   #25
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Hello laEspadaAncha,

Here is a photo of a mark on the crossguard made with my cell phone.

Is there anything to look for that would tell if the grip is synthetic or real?
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Old 13th February 2013, 11:09 PM   #26
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The same looks to be authentic. The maker mark is that of Suya Co. Overall, this dirk is of very good quality, and possibly pre WWII.
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Old 14th February 2013, 12:21 AM   #27
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There are two blades here.
The Navy Dagger is absolutely a piece of WWII era Japanese militaria.
The other blade is absolutely Modern Chinese production. Your father wasted his money. It will be hundreds of years before this has collectors' value.
Peter Bleed

Last edited by David : 14th February 2013 at 10:43 PM. Reason: Offers or inquiries into commercial sale is absolutely forbidden in this forum!
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Old 14th February 2013, 09:48 PM   #28
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Thanks trenchwarfare, I'll see if I can find some information on the Suya Company..... Ok found something "Suya Shōten Co. Ltd with To inspection stamp". Time to do some more reading.

pbleed, You must be psychic to say that my father "wasted his money". What do you think he paid?

In any case, I would enjoy seeing a picture of your WWII era Navy Dagger for comparison.
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Old 14th February 2013, 10:17 PM   #29
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Peter, your offer of sale has been deleted. Please re-read the forum rules on this.
I might also add that your additional comment on money wasted and collector value seems to have little value itself. I recommend a more constructive approach.

Last edited by David : 14th February 2013 at 10:44 PM.
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Old 15th February 2013, 01:22 AM   #30
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Well, gee.
I tried in concrete terms to explain what IJN daggers are really worth. There are lots of books and websites that offer this information on these blades. I did not mention the fact that I currently have a IJN dagger that I would sell for XXX as a ad. I simply thought it was a graphic demonstration of the real world value of such daggers.
Apparently, my comments on the other "sword" seemed harsh. I'm sorry. But this knife it has nothing of the balance and beauty of a real Japanese sword. I never met your Dad. And Lord knows that I have made lots of good friends at Gun Shows.I probably would have liked him. But, whatever he paid for it, as an investment, this knife has essentially no upward potential. It was, in other words, "a bad investment." Maybe your Dad had a great day, a pleasant trip, and a good lunch. I hope so. Maybe he liked buying this sword. That's okay, too. But you seemed to want information about this knife and I assumed that the purpose of this list is to tell the truth.
Maybe I was short, but I tried only to tell you about this knife. It is not old. It is Chinese in origin, and -given the standards of Japanese swords- it is not handsome.
Peter

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