By Rai Kunimitsu
Kamakura period/14th century
Kyushu National Museum
In the Kamakura period, sword production sites spread across the nation. Some famous sword sites or groups include Taima in Yamato Nara, Osafune in Bizen Okayama, Masamune in Sagami and Yamashiro in Kyoto. Among the Yamashiro group, Rai is a faction that produced many superb swordsmiths from the mid-Kamakura period to the Northern and Southern Courts period. It is said that the name Rai derives from the fact that their ancestors came to Japan from Goryeo.
This sword fully demonstrates the characteristics of Rai Kunimitsu, that is, a rectilinear blade forged using fine solid ground metal, a wide blade and a dignified and dynamic atmosphere. This was handed down to the Matsudaira family as a sword that Matsudaira Tadaaki, who became the lord of Himeji Castle in 1639, used in the Siege of Osaka. Later it was possessed by the Iwasaki family (Mitsubishi), then by Aritomo Yamagata and by Emperor Meiji, through whom it finally settled at the Tokyo National Museum. Upon the opening of the Kyushu National Museum, it was transferred from Tokyo to the Kyushu National Museum.