Monday, January 4, 2016


The fortunes of war have placed more Japanese Samurai Swords in the United States than in their country of origin.  Following Japan's surrender in 1945, the US military undertook a momentous task, the disarmament of the Japanese armed forces as well as the civilian population of the home islands.  The occupational forces scoured the country for military weapons, ordinance, aircraft, naval vessels and field gear.  All of Japan's military hardware was slated for orderly collection and destruction.  This regime of confiscation was conducted to pacify the potentially hostile population and prevent any continuing resistance by hard line military personnel.

This program went beyond demilitarization and included the Japanese civilian population.  The people of Japan were steeped in centuries of proud martial tradition. Many families descended from the Samurai class which had thrived in Japan for thousands of years preceding the Meiji restoration in 1868.  The vestiges of Samurai tradition resided in the homes of their descendants, most notably in the mythical and iconic Japanese sword.  Passed down through generations these magnificent and lethal works of art were cherished and honored.

In the 1930's the government of Imperial Japan launched a program to revive the martial spirit of Japanese society.  Propaganda glorified the Samurai tradition, the Samurai code of Bushido became the ideological manifesto.  Buddhist temples were closed in favor of state sanctioned Shintoism. The symbol of the warrior class was venerated again and given a prominent place in society, the traditional Japanese sword and its proud tradition was resurrected.  Forges were rekindled and sword making centers thrived once more.

Sword smiths tracing their lineage back hundreds  of years crafted masterpieces in the traditional manner and design.  Every officer in the Imperial Army and Navy carried a sword as a symbol of rank and martial status.  The quality of these modern Showa period swords varied dramatically from traditional hand forged blades to machine made examples, all appearing in period military mounts.  Some officer's preferred to carry ancient family blades in modern mounts, in a sense bringing their ancestral pride and tradition to war.

At wars end all of these weapons were confiscated by the occupying forces, many were destroyed, but many ended up in the duffle bags of soldiers and sailors returning home to the United States.  Today Japanese Samurai Swords are ubiquitous in the estates of our World War Two veterans.  As a result, the availability of these beautiful and iconic weapons has spawned a large and appreciative collector following in the United States.  

It is not uncommon to see Samurai swords offered at auction Today.  We are proud to have such an offering in our January 16th Art & Antiques Auction.  One sword has a blade dating to the Koto period.  It is a graceful beauty, with a tang signed by the smith who hand forged it over four hundred years ago.  It is housed in World War Two military mounts and carries a company grade officer tassel.  A family sword passed down through generations and carried by a high ranking Imperial Officer during the war.  Another sword crafted during the war accompanies it, it is also signed by a smith working during the Showa period in the proud tradition of his predecessors.  Both of these works of art are offered to the highest bidder with no reserve on January 16th.  See you at the auction.

For photographs and descriptions visit us at:  JJAMESAUCTIONS.COM