A group of sword smiths founded by Kuniyuki (国行) and called the “Rai school”, existed in Kyoto and thrived from the middle of the Kamakura to the Nanbokucho period. Kuniyuki (国行) never used the school name of “Rai” (来) in his mei. Niji Kunitoshi (二字国俊) who likewise did not use the “Rai” (来) school name followed Kuniyuki (国行). Niji Kunitoshi (二字国俊) was active around the Koan Era (公安)(1278-1287) and was followed by Rai Kunitoshi (来国俊) who was active around the Sho’o (正応) era (1288-1292).
The works of Niji Kunitoshi (二字国俊) resembled those of his father Kuniyuki (国行). Some of Niji Kunitoshi’s (二字国俊) works are even more imposing than those of his father. There are constant references to the fact that his sugata and forging characteristics will, in many ways, resemble the Bizen Ichimonji school of the middle Kamakura era. While there are some zaimei blades by Niji Kunitoshi (二字国俊) that bear a resemblance to the general works of Rai Kunitoshi (来国俊) and vice versa; there exist enough signed examples to clearly show a significant divergence of styles in the workings of both of these smiths.
I am very pleased to be able to offer for sale this truly outstanding katana by Niji Kunitoshi (二字国俊). It was awarded Tokubetsu Jûyô status by the NBTHK. The Tokubetsu Jûyô zufu describes the blade as follows:
Designated Tokubetsu-Jûyô Tôken at the 9th Shinsa on the 17th of July, the 60th year of Shôwa (1985)
Unsigned: Niji Kunitoshi (二字国俊)
With an origami by Honami Kôyû
Dimensions: Length: 74.2 centimeters; Curvature: 1.9 centimeters; Width at the Base: 2.7 centimeters; Width at the Point: 1.75; Width at the Base: 0.6 centimeter; Kissaki Length: 2.75 centimeters; Nakago Length: 19.6; Nakago Curvature: extremely little.
Features: The construction is shinogi-zukuri with an iori-mune. There is somewhat of a curvature, and there is a chû-kissaki. The kitae is tight itame-hada that is covered in ji-nie. The jigane contains conspicuous midare-utsuri. The hamon is chôji mixed with gunome, and the upper portion becomes sugu in style. The entire hamon is highly active with ashi and well covered in nie, which have a vivid feeling. The bôshi is sugu with a ko-maru. The nakago is ô-suriage with a shallow kurijiri tip, and kiri yasuri-me. There are three mekugi-ana, and the blade is unsigned.
Maker: Yamashiro no Kuni Niji Kunitoshi (山城国二字国俊)
Period: Middle of the Kamakura period
Provenance: Handed down in the Yamanouchi family of Tosa
Explanation: In the Rai School, there are works that are only signed with the two characters for Kunitoshi（国俊) and works that are signed with the three characters for Rai Kunitoshi (来国俊). Whether these are the works of the same smith dating to his early and later periods, or whether they are different smiths is a discussion that has continued since long ago. These days, the explanation that these two smiths are older and younger brothers carries the most weight. There is a tachi that is dated to the first year of Kôan (1278), which makes his period of activity clear. Niji Kunitoshi’s (二字国俊) style of workmanship includes a blade construction that is often wide and splendid, a ji-hada of ko-itame that is somewhat prominent, and a hamon tempered in suguha or a more conspicuous, Kuniyuki-like (国行) midare or chôji. In early sword books, it states that his flamboyant hamon “resembles that on such works by Bizen Ichimonji;” however, unlike Bizen works, the interior of his ha is covered in nie. With Kuniyuki (国行) and Niji Kunitoshi (二字国俊), there are works on which the mune is tempered, the bôshi is midare-komi, and the blades have a powerful appearance.
This katana is ô-suriage, mumei. The width is a bit narrow in comparison to that usually seen; however, the shape is magnificent. The ji-ha is very tight and gorgeous, and the hamon is sugu in style with conspicuous midare-chôji. The ji and the ha are powerfully covered in nie, and there is both midare-ashi and nie-ashi activity. The nioiguchi has a conspicuous appearance. The characteristics of Niji Kunitoshi (二字国俊) are clearly displayed, and the ji and ha are healthy.
There is a highly valuable origami by Honami Kôyû (14th gen.) with a value of 3,000 kan dated to the fourth year of Hôreki (1754), which clearly shows his high level of discernment.