A look at Japanese WWII Army Enlisted Tunics - Military Trader/Vehicles

Japanese WWII Army Enlisted Tunics

By the time the United States declared war on Japan in 1941, the Imperial Army was in the midst of major uniform change. During WWII, American GIs and Marines would face an opponent who utilized at least three different service tunics during WW2.
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In 1930, the Japanese Army slightly modified the Type 45 tunics that it had adopted in 1911 by removing the piping from the top of the cuffs but retained the shoulder straps and standing collar with swallow-tailed collar insignia. The resulting style was designated the “Type 5 Tunic.” This Japanese Private First Class (probationary officer as denoted by collar badges) is wearing a woolen, winter issue Type 5 tunic. The patch on his right sleeve is a Diligence Badge.

In 1930, the Japanese Army slightly modified the Type 45 tunics that it had adopted in 1911 by removing the piping from the top of the cuffs but retained the shoulder straps and standing collar with swallow-tailed collar insignia. The resulting style was designated the “Type 5 Tunic.” This Japanese Private First Class (probationary officer as denoted by collar badges) is wearing a woolen, winter issue Type 5 tunic. The patch on his right sleeve is a Diligence Badge.

Type 5 Army Tunic

Known as the “5shiki Gun-i”, the Type 5 tunic strongly resembled the tunic that had been standard in the Japanese Army since it replaced the blue uniform in 1911. Made of a yellowish khaki (often referred to as “mustard”) wool for winter wear or cotton for summer, the Type 5 was essentially the same as the earlier Type 45 tunic. The most noticeable difference: no piping around the top of the cuff on the Type 5 tunic. This change was instituted in 1930 so, in addition to “Type 5,” the uniform tunic is often referred to as the “M90,” “2590,” or “Model 1930."

The tunic is recognizable from a standing collar with colored, swallow-tail collar tabs denoting branch of service and unit, rank insignia tabs on the shoulder seam usually secured by two small loops, scalloped breast pocket flaps and five buttons down the front. A variety of buttons were utilized, including brass, green-painted steel, bronze-plated steel, brown or green plastic, brown Bakelite or even green or brown-painted wood.

Type 5 tunic is recognizable from the standing collar with swallow-tail collar patches and two inset breast pockets with scalloped, buttoned flaps. The buttons on this mustard-colored woolen Private Second Class’ tunic are bronze-colored tin.

Type 5 tunic is recognizable from the standing collar with swallow-tail collar patches and two inset breast pockets with scalloped, buttoned flaps. The buttons on this mustard-colored woolen Private Second Class’ tunic are bronze-colored tin.

A belt support loop was located on the wearer’s left hip. Two vents in the skirt facilitated ease of movement. 

The wool tunic (guni) featured a three-quarter, off-white cotton lining and two small pockets: one on the lower left skirt for the first-aid packet and the other on the left breast. Markings are usually found on the interior of the left breast.

The cotton tunic was constructed the same except that it was not lined and did not have the interior breast pocket. A white cotton tunic with green buttons was cut similar to the Type 5 and worn for fatigue duties. 

Though production of the Type 5 ended in 1938, with the introduction of the Type 98 uniform, the Imperial Army continued to issue existing stocks of Type 5 uniforms and photographic evidence reveals the uniform was still worn at the end of the war.  

Soldiers were instructed to remove the shoulder straps and the branch and unit designating collar tabs from their Type 5 tunics when the Type 98 was adopted in 1938. In place of the collar insignia, soldiers were to sew on Type 98 rank designation as seen here. The color of the patch above this soldier’s right pocket denotes his branch of service badge.

Soldiers were instructed to remove the shoulder straps and the branch and unit designating collar tabs from their Type 5 tunics when the Type 98 was adopted in 1938. In place of the collar insignia, soldiers were to sew on Type 98 rank designation as seen here. The color of the patch above this soldier’s right pocket denotes his branch of service badge.

Tropical Tunic

Prior to the outbreak of WWII, Japan issued the Bousyo-i, or tropical cotton uniforms, to troops stationed in the South Seas Mandate Islands. Initially, these uniforms were produced in tan or light khaki cotton, but by 1941, medium to dark green were commonplace. 

Tropical tunics had open collars, buttoned side vent flaps below the armpits, pleated patch or internal pockets with flaps and patch pockets on the skirts without flaps. Later examples incorporated skirt pockets with buttonless flaps like those on the Type 98 tunic.

Type 98 Army Tunic

The first significant change in the Japanese Army’s tunic since the color change in 1912 came in 1938 with the adoption of the introduction of the 98shiki Gun-i, or “Type 98” tunic. Instead of a standing collar, the Type 98 tunic featured a stand-and-fall collar and four internal pockets, the top two with button, scalloped edges and the bottom two with non-buttoning straight flaps (some manufacturers did produce Type 98 tunics with only two breast pockets). The tunic still utilized five buttons down the front and one hook was provided for keeping the collar closed tightly around the wearer’s neck.

The Type 98 tunic, whether winter issue or summer issue like this cotton Sergeant Major’s example, is recognizable by the stand-and-fall collar with rank patches and four exterior pockets. The top two pockets each have a scalloped flap with one button while the bottom two slanted pockets each have a simple straight-cut flap with no button.

The Type 98 tunic, whether winter issue or summer issue like this cotton Sergeant Major’s example, is recognizable by the stand-and-fall collar with rank patches and four exterior pockets. The top two pockets each have a scalloped flap with one button while the bottom two slanted pockets each have a simple straight-cut flap with no button.

Instead of rank insignia on the shoulders like on the Type 5 tunic, the Type 98 featured a new style of collar patch to indicate rank. The Type 98 tunic eliminated any indication of branch of service or unit affiliation. In fact, soldiers who continued to wear the Type 5 tunics 1938, were instructed to remove the colored unit patches from the collars.

                              INDENTIFY THE RANK ON YOUR TYPE 98 TUNIC

Japanese Private First Class wearing a cotton Type 98 tunic. When wearing a cotton tunic, the soldier was compelled to carry his pay book and other papers in the exterior breast pocket as seen here. The woolen tunic had an interior pocket for that purpose.

Japanese Private First Class wearing a cotton Type 98 tunic. When wearing a cotton tunic, the soldier was compelled to carry his pay book and other papers in the exterior breast pocket as seen here. The woolen tunic had an interior pocket for that purpose.

Like its predecessor, the Type 98 tunic featured a single belt loop on the lower left back and vents on each hip. Similarly, the tunic was three-quartered lined with white cotton with an interior left breast pocket and a first-aid packet pocket. Markings were stamped inside the left breast in black ink. 

The khaki- or olive-colored cotton tunic was cut like the wool version but was not lined and did not have an interior breast pocket. Underarm vents that were each secured with a single button were a feature unique to the summer weight tunic.

Type 3 Army Tunic

In 1943, the Imperial Army introduced the 3shiki Gun-i, or Type 3 uniform. Essentially cut the same as the Type 98, the Type 3 tunic can be distinguished from the lower quality of materials used in their manufacture. 

The Japanese Army issued at least three versions of tropical tunics during WWII. While strongly resembling a Type 98 tunic made of cotton material, a tropical tunic is readily recognized by the buttoned vent located under each arm.

The Japanese Army issued at least three versions of tropical tunics during WWII. While strongly resembling a Type 98 tunic made of cotton material, a tropical tunic is readily recognized by the buttoned vent located under each arm.

The wool used for the winter tunic was generally coarser and darker than that used for the Type 98. Furthermore, the lining of the Type 3 varied in color and material. It is not uncommon to find Type 3 tunics lined with green, blue or black synthetics. Some very late production Type 3 tunics were issued without any lining. Buttons were usually brown or beige plastic, though some early production Type 3 tunics have been found with green-painted metal buttons. 

The cotton version of the Type 3 was the same as the cotton Type 98 except for the buttons. Generally, the Type 3 tunics were fitted with plastic or wood buttons.

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Kesenfuku “Last-Ditch” Tunic

With expectations that the war might actually come to the shores of Japan, the Imperial Army began producing kesenfuku, or “home front” uniforms in 1945. The waist-length jacket had two slash breast pockets with pointed flaps and buttons, a stand-and-fall collar and reinforced elbows. Though the pattern omitted pockets in the waist, it did retain the belt support strap on the left rear waist. Because manufacturers used cheaper materials, many variations in cloth and color exist. Buttons on kesenfuku were often made of wood, tin or even baked clay. Both wool and lightweight cotton versions were produced. 

Kesenfuku was a produced in 1945 as a home defense or “last-ditch” tunic. Features that make it easily recognizable include the stand-and-fall collar (shown here with Type 98 Private First Class insignia) and the two large breast pockets, each with a pointed flap and single button. On the wool version, these pockets were usually concealed with only the flaps visible whereas on the cotton version, they were sewn as patch pockets.

Kesenfuku was a produced in 1945 as a home defense or “last-ditch” tunic. Features that make it easily recognizable include the stand-and-fall collar (shown here with Type 98 Private First Class insignia) and the two large breast pockets, each with a pointed flap and single button. On the wool version, these pockets were usually concealed with only the flaps visible whereas on the cotton version, they were sewn as patch pockets.

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