Shintaro Katsu in The Tale of Zatoichi (1962)

Zatoichi is a fictional character, a blind masseur and blademaster, who is featured in one of Japan’s longest running series of films and a television series that are both set during the late Edo period (1830s and 1840s). The character was created by novelist Kan Shimozawa.

This originally character is a minor character developed for actor Shintaro Katsu by Daiei Studios (now Kadokawa Pictures) for the screen. There were 26 films made from 1962 to 1989. From 1974 to 1979, the television series was produced, also starring Shintaro Katsu and some of the other stars who appeared in the films. The TV episodes were produced by Katsu Productions. One hundred episodes, with episodes 99 and 100 being a two-part story finale, were aired before the Zatoichi television series was cancelled.

Blind Fury made in the US in 1990 by TriStar Pictures was a retake of Zatoichi Challenged (1967), film number 17 of the original series. Blind Fury was an action movie that starred Rutger Hauer.

The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2003) was directed by Takeshi Kitano, who also played  lead Zatōichi in the film. The film was awarded the Venice Film Festival’s Silver Lion for Best Direction in 2003.

A stage version was also made and was directed by Takashi Miike, It starred Show Aikawa.

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List of all the original films and the film’s directors:

  1. The Tale of Zatoichi (1962) Director Kenji Misumi
  2. The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (1962) Director Kazuo Mori
  3. New Tale of Zatoichi (1963) Director Tokuzo Tanaka
  4. Zatoichi The Fugitive (1963) Director Tokuzo Tanaka
  5. Zatoichi on the Road (1963) Director Kimiyoshi Yasuda
  6. Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold (1964) Director Kazuo Ikehiro
  7. Zatoichi’s Flashing Sword (1964) Director Kazuo Ikehiro
  8. Fight, Zatoichi, Fight (1964) Director Kenji Misumi
  9. Adventures of Zatoichi (1964) Director Kimiyoshi Yasuda
  10. Zatoichi’s Revenge (1965) Director Akira Inoue
  11. Zatoichi and the Doomed Man (1965) Director Kazuo Mori
  12. Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (1965) Director Kenji Misumi
  13. Zatoichi’s Vengeance (1966) Director Tokuzo Tanaka
  14. Zatoichi’s Pilgrimage (1966) Director Kazuo Ikehiro
  15. Zatoichi’s Cane Sword (1967) Director Kimiyoshi Yasuda
  16. Zatoichi the Outlaw (1967) Director Satsuo Yamamoto
  17. Zatoichi Challenged (1967) Director Kenji Misumi
  18. Zatoichi and the Fugitives (1968) Director Kimiyoshi Yasuda
  19. Samaritan Zatoichi (1968) Director Kenji Misumi
  20. Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (1970) Director Kihachi Okamoto
  21. Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival (1970) Director Kenji Misumi
  22. Zatoichi Meets the One Armed Swordsman (1971) Director Kimiyoshi Yasuda
  23. Zatoichi at Large (1972) Director Kazuo Mori
  24. Zatoichi in Desperation (1972) Director Shintaro Katsu
  25. Zatoichi’s Conspiracy (1973) Director Kimiyoshi Yasuda
  26. Zatoichi: Darkness Is His Ally (1989) Director Shintaro Katsu