There are some articles and books in English have already discussed the design of the rifle itself. This article is going to discuss the history of Japanese Type I rifle, which has not yet been realized by western collectors.
Japanese named the rifle after Italy as イ式小銃 or more formally as 伊太利製改造小銃 (Italy made modified rifle) which abbreviates to 伊式小銃.
There’s a story circulating out there said these rifles were bought for Japanese Imperial Navy because the Navy hardly to acquire small arms from Army controlled arsenals. I have to say this is not true. Indeed, Navy and marines were main users of these rifles, however, that not the original aim. I guess the Italian rifles alongside K98k from Mauser is a part of Trio Pact that Japan-German-Italian share military technologies and for balance trade.
Japanese archives tell us, these rifles were bought under Japanese-Manchuria-Italian pact by Japanese Ministry of Army. Japan initially ordered around 130,000 Italian rifles (seems amended to 100,000? Still need some works to figure it out) to arm the puppet regime Manchukuo Military force. Nevertheless, the rifle seems never been made to Manchukuo.
Japanese contract negotiation commenced in the middle of 1938 and finished in September 1938. Italians offered two modification plans. Option one only to convert caliber to 6.5 Arisaka and leave the Carcano magazine which can be delivered in 9 months. Option 2 to convert the caliber as well as magazine to Japanese Type 38 pattern which can be delivered in 12 months. Option one costs 65 Yen (350 Lira) and Option two costs 75 Yen (400 Lira) per rifle. Japan chose second option as we can see now. Japanese contract total valued in 10 Million Yen including rifles, cartridges and spare parts. In December 1939, Japanese ordered additional extractors.
Italians delivered the rifles in 6 separate batches from December 1938 to December 1939. I do not know the time and quantity of first four shipments. The fifth shipments of 20060 rifles left Italy for Japan on November 17 1939 and the sixth shipment sailed to Japan on December 28. All shipments were transported by Japanese cargo ships. The deal was closed in March 1940 as Japanese made the last sixth payment.
According to Japanese records after the victory day, most of rifles used by Navy and Aviation forces where small arms are secondary weapons. Imperial Marines also was a main user. Chinese Army captured 1700 Type I rifles belongs to Imperial Marine forces in Shanghai after Japan surrendered. And at least 6000 were provided to Japanese puppet regimes in Mainland China during the war. Another document shows Imperial Army units stationed in Mainland China also equipped some Type I rifles. A-038 and G4868 were used for durability test.