Naval Officers dirks were first issued in the 1880's. The same basic pattern was used with minor variations for numerous civilian officials. Most were machine made with chrome plated blades. They have white ray skin handles with wire wrap and brass mounts. Variations in the engraving and emblems on the mounts distinquish Naval dirks from the civilian dirks. Very rarely a naval dirk may be encountered with a hand forged blade. These were special order items using the owners or a special order blade and custom built mountings. Some of these dirks were made by the Tenshozan Tanrenjo and are so signed on the nakago.
Officers dirks were private purchase or gift items during the WW II era. They were not "issued" to Army or Navy officers; the exception being those dirks which were occasionally presented by the commanding officer to his pilots of the "Shimpu Tokubetsu Kogetai" (Divine Wind Special Attack Force). Officers dirks are generally not well made although do appear to be hand forged and do exhibit a true hamon (temperline) in most cases. The nakago is uncommonly short and rarely signed; a few are signed on the blade itself rather than on the nakago. The blades average approximately six to seven inches in length. The mounts are normally plain shirasaya although some dirks may have ivory fuchi and koiguchi and dark lacquered saya. Some dirks will have a lanyard hole in the tsuka. Officers dirks normally had leather field covers and cloth carry bags. There is basically no difference between so called kamikaze dirks and officers dirks.
Dress dirks were also carried by Japanese Navy Senior Petty Officers. They have plain brass mountings and a dark brown or black leather scabbard. The blades were machine made, approximately 10 inches in length, and chrome plated with a fuller running one half the length of the blade. Naval bandsman also carried a similar dirk which had a curved, unfullered blade.
Civil forestry officials were authorized to wear dirks from about 1903 until the end of WW II in 1945. There were two models, both in a junior and senior grade pattern. The junior grade officials pattern had silver plated mounts while the senior officials pattern had gilded brass mounts. Both may have the cherry blossom (sakura) design on the hilt and/or scabbard fittings. The hilt was covered with rayskin (same') and the scabbard was covered in black leather. Both grades had plated, machine made blades although hand forged blades have been found in this style mounts. Forestry officials dirks are relatively rare today.
In 1909 the Japanese National Railroad instituted dirks for its officials. These are similar in design to the Naval Officer's dirks, but have wire wrapped, dark rayskin (same') covered handles. The emblem on the handle is the Kiri mon and the kashira (top cap) has a wheel motif. The mounts are gilt brass. The scabbard is black leather. All railroad dirk blades are machine made and chrome plated with a fuller running the length of the blade. Other civil official's dirks were quite similar but with different emblems denoting the agency or organization.
REPRODUCTIONS AND FAKES
There are numerous other styles of Japanese military and civilian dirks from the war era; including diplomatic dirks, officers dirks, various civilian dirks and others. Refer to the excellent works of Richard Fuller and Ron Gregory in their books on Japanese military swords. See the book page for details.
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