AI4FR Virtual Militaria Items Tour 

Japanese Items

 

This WWII era Japanese Type 38 is a bolt-action rifle of the Arisaka design that was used by the Imperial Japanese Army. Colonel Nariakira Arisaka headed a commission in the 1890s and was in charge of developing a new rifle design to replace such rifles as the outdated Murata. The Type 38 was adopted by the Japanese in 1905.

The Type 38 rifle used a mixture of designs from both the Mauser and Mannlicher rifles but with some Japanese innovations tossed in. The result was a rock solid rifle with a caliber of 6.5mm. The rifle utilized a cock-on-closing action, which improved the rate of fire from the standard Mauser cock-on-open design. Post-war inspection of the Type 38 by both the U.S. military and the NRA has proven that the Type 38 receiver was the strongest bolt action of any nation from that era and capable of handling a more powerful cartridge.

 This small caliber rifle in combination with a low powdered cartridge, produced a rifle with a small recoil that exactly suited the slight stature of the Japanese soldier. This fact was further aided by the Type 38 as being a rather long rifle. When the rifle was used with a bayonet, as it normally was in combat, it gave the Japanese soldier a considerable advantage for close in warfare, but it also made the rifle awkward to handle. The Type 38 rifle at about 4 feet, 2 inches long was the longest rifle of the war. The Japanese soldier of the era stood on average about 5 feet, 3 inches tall. When used with the Type 30 bayonet which has a blade length of 15 3/4 inches long, it made the rifle longer then the average Japanese soldier was tall.

At one point during WWI the Type 38 rifle was even purchased by the British as a training rifle. During the 1930's the Japanese gradually adopted a new service cartridge of 7.7mm, and the Type 38 was revised as the Type 99 rifle. It was the intention of the Imperial Japanese Army to replace the Type 38 with the Type 99 by the end of the war. With the outbreak of the Pacific war though, it never allowed the Japanese army to completely replace the Type 38 and so the Imperial Japanese Army used both rifles during the war. As was so often the case with many of the nations that fought in WWII, the Japanese started to implement cost saving measures into their war instruments in order to speed up production. The Type 38 was not spared this fate. Overall standards went down to the point where some of the late war produced examples were virtually lethal to the user, many of them being constructed from very low quality raw materials. By the end of the war, the Japanese arsenals were reduced to producing very simple single shot weapons firing the 8mm pistol cartridge, or even black powder weapons. There was even a proposal to use long bows and crossbows firing explosive arrows. This was a long way from the day when the Type 38 was the most widely used service rifle in the Orient.

The Type 38 rifle featured on this page was manufactured at the Kokura Arsenal between 1943 and 1945. The rifle is also not original as it left the factory. The stock has been sporterized and it has been re-chambered to accept the .257 cartridge. A number of items on this rifle has also been chrome plated. The pictures on this web page also indicate the rifle in the condition it was received.  

The photograph on the left is of the top of the receiver. The Japanese symbols on the receiver indicate that this is a Type 38 rifle, or as translated from the top down would read 38 type. We can also see in this picture that the Japanese chrysanthemum also referred to as mum for short, has been removed.

The chrysanthemum with its 16 petals was the symbol of the Japanese Emperor.The chrysanthemum was either fully or partially ground off, or in some way defaced on rifles that were surrendered after the war. No one knows for sure why this was done. Did the Japanese love their Emperor so much that even the thought of a symbol of the emperor in other hands was not to be tolerated? Did General MacArthur order it to be done to help suppress the nationalistic pride? Either way, at the end of the war when the Japanese surrendered their weapons to the Allies, they destroyed this marking.

Some rifles have been found with the defacing marks not even touching the chrysanthemum and it is thought that the person doing the defacing could not bring them self to destroy a mark of the emperor. There is a also a lot of speculation out there as to the rifles found with an intact chrysanthemum, are these battlefield captured weapons, was the rifle missed during the removal of the chrysanthemum process, did a U.S. soldier sneak the weapon home? The list goes on and no one really knows for sure and the circumstances for each rifle will be different. If you ever have the opportunity to purchase a war relic and the seller is claiming that it is a "vet bring back" or has a fantastic story to go along with the inflated price of the item, always try to remember to base what you think the item is worth just on the item and not the story.

The photograph on the right is of the rear anti-aircraft sights. As mentioned above, the cut backs due to the Allied blockade and their bombing missions forced the Japanese to scale down on their war instruments. As such, the fold out leaf for this anti-aircraft sight was never installed when the rifle left the arsenal.  

These next two photographs show both the left and right side of the buttstock of this Type 38 rifle.  

These next two photographs show us some modifications that were made after the war and most likely done here in the U.S. The picture on the left is of the sporterized stock and shortened barrel. The photograph on the right is of a little creative chrome plating.

  

Resource:

Military pistols of Japan by Fred Honeycutt

Military rifles of Japan by Fred Honeycutt &Patt Anthony

The Japanese Naval Special type 99 rifles and carbines by Francis Allan & Carl Goddard

The standard directory of proof marks by Gerhard Wirnsberger

Official guide to gunmarks by Robert Balderson  

      AI4FR                                                                                                                                                                                                  AI4FR                                                                                                       AI4FR

Copyright © John Whitt 2017 All rights reserved.