The first indigenous Japanese rifle became the "Murata Rifle" of 1880 and this series of bolt-actions saw service across battlefields of the 19th and 20th centuries. The series was inspired by European developments and fed from a tube magazine while the action of the bolt was manual. From this experience lay the ground work for a more modern rifle to follow - the Arisaka Type 30, the first rifle to bear the Arisaka name.
Before the end of the 1800s, the Imperial Japanese Army was already on the lookout for a successor to the Murata series and began development on such a weapon in December of 1895. Colonel Arisaka Nariakira headed its design (prototypes recognized as the "Type 29") and the construction of the gun had through the Koishikawa Arsenal of Tokyo. In its original form, the rifle would be chambered for the 6.5x50mm Arisaka cartridge. The action remained a manual bolt and feeding would be through a 5-round internal magazine. Weight became 8.7lb and overall length was 50" with a barrel assembly measuring 31.4"".
Outwardly, the rifle took on the form of those rifles of the period - a long-running wooden stock formed the major section (and weight) of the long gun and the metal components were inlaid. The pistol grip was integrated as part of the stock and receiver. Banding was present along the barrel and forend to provide rigidity. Sighting devices allowed for ranging targets up to 1,500 meters. Muzzle velocity was rated at 2,510 feet-per-second. The bayonet Type 30 could be affixed under the barrel to provide a longer-range stabbing weapon than simply a combat knife.
After some refinements to the Type 29, the rifle was adopted into service with the Imperial Japanese Army as its standard long gun as the "Type 30" (to mark the 30th year of the Meiji period, a common practice of Japanese weapons of the imperial period). Service entry was actually 1899.
The Type 30 was pressed into action as soon as the Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901 and, a little late, in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 - the latter ending as a Japanese victory to the surprise of many. A shortened carbine model was also made to better maneuverability of the weapon in confined spaces or from horseback. Some 554,000 of the rifle design were produced in all and 45,000 carbines further strengthened this number.
Other Arisaka Type 30 forms were the Type 30 Training Rifle, for blank-firing exercises, and the "Manchu Arisaka" which were the same service rifles produced in China. A local, low-budget derivative of the Manchu was also known and this became the "North China Type 30" in carbine form - though chambered for the German 7.92x57mm Mauser cartridge instead. The Type 35 Navy was nothing more than the Type 30 in Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) service.
Practical use revealed some inherent shortcomings of the rifle, however, namely in its chambering of the weak 6.5x50mm Arisaka cartridge which offered poorer man-stopping power when compared to European contemporaries. Reliability was also a factor in the disdain some generated for this long gun. This led to a more refined product in the Arisaka Type 38 (detailed elsewhere on this site) and the newer gun was adopted as soon as 1906 - though it still retained reliance on the Arisaka cartridge. However, the sheer availability of the Type 30 by the time of World War 1 (1914-1918) meant that both the Type 30 and Type 38 rifles were in circulation and service with frontline troops.
Use of the Type 30 was not limited to just Japan and China for several other powers of the period inquired and received the weapon in number. Some were captured by the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in actions along the Eastern Front during the fighting of World War 1 and some saw conversion to the local 6.5x54mm Mannlicher cartridge. Over half a million were ordered by the desperate Russian Empire and the British ordered both the Type 30 and Type 38 rifle series to shore up their own stock until Lee-Enfields could be had in the numbers required (these then passed on to Russia from 1916 onwards). Estonia and Finland rounded out the list, the former modifying their stock to accept the British .303 rifle cartridge instead.
The Type 30's legacy was also not ended with the close of World War 1 in 1918 for the series went on to see extended combat actions in the Chinese Civil War (1927-1936), the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), World War 2 (1939-1945), the Indonesian National Revolution (1945-1949) and the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960).