1945 Pottery Hand Grenades.

The Sasebo area on Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu, about 600 miles southwest of Tokyo, has long been known for its china and pottery.

Near the end of World War II, the Japanese Imperial High Command (convinced that the allies were planning an invasion), decided to make that invasion as costly as possibly. Their goal was to arm the public with a weapon to counter-attack. This weapon would have to be small, easy to move or store, inexpensive, and require little, if any, training.

Faced with a critical shortage of strategic resources, especially steel, the Imperial High Command turned to the nation’s skilled china makers to produce ceramic mine and hand grenade cases. The long established china/pottery industry near Sasebo was ordered to expand production of ceramic grenade and mine cases to arm the public. The Imperial Navy Ordnance Facilities at Sasebo were used to load and store the ceramic grenades, which contained a Japanese naval explosive.

But the grenades were never widely used. The United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan and without invading the island chain, forced the Imperial High Command to surrender. With the end of the war at hand, great stores of the empty grenades were simply buried in the Sasebo Naval ordinance areas. In 1952, workers at the U.S. Navy’s HarioShima Ordnance Facility discovered a large quantity of grenades buried near a shallow tidal basin. Similar empty grenades have also been found in the local chinaware producing town of Arita, approximately 25km from Sasebo, during excavation of air raid shelters there. In 1987, explosive loaded grenades were uncovered at a construction site near Miyazaki, a city in southern Kyushu.

Hundreds of the ceramic grenades have been recovered in good condition. Now, dusted off and painted white with the emblem of the U.S. Naval Station, they make unique souvenirs. This souvenir grenade is an example of Japanese ingenuity and dedication. It is both a war relic and conversation piece unique to Sasebo and the industry that is now famous for well known brands of fine bone China.

Ceramic grenade with the emblem of the  U.S. Naval Station.


Specifications and Dimensions 

Grenade bodies were molded from Terra Cotta. Most were lightly glazed on the exterior and interior. Color range was white to reddish-brown. Grenades were four inches in height, three inches in diameter, and the case was 7/16 of an inch thick. They were filled with 3.5 oz. of explosive. A loaded grenade weighed 16oz. and was fused to explode 4-5 seconds after ignition, allowing a person enough time to throw it before it explodes.


Except for the top neck, the grenade is spherical, consisting of two hemispheres baked together. The grenade was encased in a straw-colored rubber sack for waterproofing and to permit the thrower a better grip. The ignition system consisted of a match composition, a 4-5 seconds delay element, lead azide initiator and a tetryl booster. All but the match composition were encased in a rubber tube lacquered into the neck of the grenade. The upper portion of the delay element was surrounded by a wooden collar covered with the match composition, and a wooden scratch block seated on top, held in place by a small rubber sack snapped around the neck of the grenade to waterproof the ignition system. A cloth tied around the neck was probably used for carrying.

Makeup of a type 4 pottery hand grenade.


Lindsay View All →

Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!

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