23 Jul 2013

The Tiger of Malaya’s Sword

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Gendai-to made in 1929 by Ikkansai Kasama Shigetsugu, formerly owned by General Tomoyuki Yamashita, Conqueror of Singapore, “The Tiger of Malaya.”

Yesterday, one of the correspondents on a Japanese sword email list shared this current commercial offering.

The sword was once carried by General Tomoyuki Yamashita, one of the most successful Japanese commanders of WWII, who captured Malaya and Singapore and who received the largest surrender of British forces on history. General Yamashita was hanged in 1946 for war crimes committed under his command for which many thought he bore no real personal responsibility.

The sword was made in 1929 by Ikkansai Kasama Shigetsugu, arguably the most important and influential swordsmith of the Showa period.

Slightly edited excerpt from Paul Martin’s The Yoshihara Tradition:

Kurihara Hikosaburo (Akihide) [charged with reviving the craft of swordmaking by the Japanese Prime Minister] invited one of the most famous smiths of the period, Ikkansai Kasama Shigetsugu, to become the chief instructor of Nipponto Tanren Denshu Jo (Japanese Sword Forging Institute) on the grounds of his estate in Akasaka, Tokyo. Shigetsugubecame perhaps the most influential smith to teach there in its entire history, and had the greatest impact on students and teachers alike.

Shigetsugu, born Kasama Yoshikazu on April 1, 1886 in Shizuoka, started his apprenticeship under his uncle Miyaguchi Shigetoshi in 1899. In 1903 he entered the Tokiwamatsu Token Kenkyujo, on the estate of Toyama Mitsuru, to study under Morioka Masayosh. Later he went on to study metallurgy whilst collaborating with Dr. Tawara Kuniichi in formal research on the composition of
Japanese swords. Tazawa built a special laboratory in Tokyo University for the project. The results were published in a book called Nihonto no Kagakuteki Kenkyu (Scientific Research of the Japanese Sword), which remains to this day a definitive scientific work on the subject.

Shigetsugu worked mainly in the Bizen and Soshu traditions of swordmaking, which influenced many of the Denshujo’s students’ later work.

The sword has an origami (authentication paper) from the NBTHK (Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kai), the premier Japanese sword preservation and study society, testifying to its correct attribution and awarding it a rank of HOZON – “Worthy of Preservation.”

Origami ranks are commonly awarded in a step-by-step process, and it seems likely to me that this sword could very possibly receive higher rankings if re-submitted.

The asking price is 2,800,000 JPY, roughly equal to $28,000.

7 Feedbacks on "The Tiger of Malaya’s Sword"


Command Responsibility, is just that. Responsibility.

Thousands of innocent civilians were slaughtered under his “command”, as well as surrendered Allied troops. Like many of his junior officers, Yamashita was a brilliant tactician and a savage.

He deserved the rope.

Ron E.

The asking price is 28,000,000 JPY, roughly equal to $28,000 – should be roughly $280,000!


Arrrgh! Typo. Thanks for catching it.

Chuck Jackson

I have a sword from the Showa period, 1929 also, what can I look for to see if it is the same sword maker?


It would be signed on the tang. Do you know how to remove the hilt safely? If not, write me at jdz@usa.net and I’ll explain.

Someone in Japan

Hi, I actually bought this sword from the dealer and it certainly was not $28,000. The sword that General Yamashita carried in the field is at the West Point Museum.


I’m glad to hear that you got a better deal.


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