2,600 Guns, Swords Found Under Japanese School

A Tokyo suburb is working on clearing a cache of long-buried ordnance unearthed while working on a local elementary school.

The Nishitokyo Municipal Government has released details of stacks of seriously deteriorated military rifles, machine guns, swords, and grenades found last week during construction at Tanashi Elementary School. The vintage hardware came to the surface when crews performing drilling work started running into the items at a depth of 3-7 feet on July 27. Since then, an estimated 1,400 firearms, 1,200 “swords” and eight practice grenades have been cataloged.

From the images, most of the well-decayed weapons are pre-1945 vintage and, judging by what is left, appear to be a mix of various models of Arisaka rifles, Type 11 and Type 96 light machine guns, Type 3 heavy machine guns, grenade throwers, and bayonets.

Both local police and Japanese military authorities were called in to render the area safe. The weapons were characterized as “training guns” in a statement.

The city government has temporarily relocated school operations while they conduct further excavations. While some may be kept as historical pieces, most, according to a release “will be disposed of appropriately based on consultation with the police station.”

The Mainichi daily noted that, while unexploded ordnance and WWII-era weapons are still sometimes found in the country, “it is rare for weapons used by the now-defunct Imperial Japanese Army to be recovered in such a large quantity at one time.”

It is not clear if the site of the current Tanashi school was a campus during the war, but Japanese Army officials made it a point to impart military training to students as part of their regular curriculum at the time.

Following the surrender of Japan in September 1945 and the demilitarization of the Imperial forces under the watchful eye of Allied troops, much of the arms and equipment turned in was scrapped, exported as trophies, or simply dumped at sea.