IMDb > The Tale of Zatoichi (1962)

The Tale of Zatoichi (1962) More at IMDbPro »Zatôichi monogatari (original title)


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Minoru Inuzuka (screenplay)
Kan Shimozawa (short story)
View company contact information for The Tale of Zatoichi on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
18 April 1962 (Japan) See more »
The adventures of a blind, gambling masseur who also happens to be a master swordsman. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
1 nomination See more »
(8 articles)
What I Watched, What You Watched #225
 (From Rope Of Silicon. 29 December 2013, 7:00 AM, PST)

New DVD Blu-ray: 'Red 2,' 'The Canyons,' 'Jobs'
 (From Moviefone. 27 November 2013, 8:00 AM, PST)

Blu-ray, DVD Release: Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman Collection
 (From Disc Dish. 26 August 2013, 4:34 PM, PDT)

User Reviews:
Noir cutlery See more (21 total) »


  (in credits order)
Shintarô Katsu ... Zatôichi / Blind Man Ichi / Masseur Ichi
Masayo Banri ... Tane / Tatekichi's sister / Seisuke's ex-lover
Ryûzô Shimada ... Shigezô of Sasagawa / Sasagawa yakuza boss
Hajime Mitamura ... Hanji of Matsugishi
Shigeru Amachi ... Hirate, Miki
Chitose Maki ... Yoshi / Hanji's wife
Ikuko Môri ... Yutaka / Shigezô's wife
Michirô Minami ... Tatekichi / Tane's brother / Saki's lover / Iioka yakuza member
Eijirô Yanagi ... Sukegorô of Iioka / Iioka yakuza boss
Toshio Chiba ... Masakichi / Iioka yakuza member (as Toshirô Chiba)
Manabu Morita ... Seisuke / Tane's ex-lover / Iioka yakuza member
Yoichi Funaki ... Yogorô / Sasagawa yakuza member
Kinya Ichikawa ... Mokichi / Sasagawa yakuza member
Eigorô Onoe ... Rihei / Sasagawa yakuza member
Yoshindo Yamaji ... Yahei / Father of Tane and Tatekichi (as Yoshito Yamaji)
Yukio Horikita ... Kanaji / Sasagawa yakuza member
Takaji Fukui ... Daihachi / Iioka yakuza member
Masayoshi Kikuno ... A coolie
Hajime Koshikawa ... A farmer
Akira Shiga ... A dice-roller
Yûji Hamada ... Iioka yakuza member
Kôichi Aihara
Hiroyoshi Nishioka ... Iioka yakuza member
Gen Kimura ... Sasagawa gambler spy
Taizô Sengoku ... Ishichi / Sasagawa yakuza member
Noboru Taniguchi ... Tomozô / Sasagawa yakuza member
Shingo Hosoya ... Iioka yakuza member
Saburô Nagaoka
Katsuyoshi Baba ... Iioka yakuza member
Kaname Yûki ... Iioka yakuza member
Keiko Awanami ... Saki / Tatekichi's lover
Kanae Kobayashi ... Kane the Sasagawa innkeeper
Bonta Maru
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jun Fujikawa ... Iioka yakuza
Takashi Teramura

Directed by
Kenji Misumi 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Minoru Inuzuka  screenplay (as Minoru Inuduka)
Kan Shimozawa  short story

Produced by
Ikuo Kubodera .... executive producer
Ikuo Kubodera .... planner
Original Music by
Akira Ifukube 
Cinematography by
Chishi Makiura 
Film Editing by
Kanji Suganuma 
Production Design by
Akira Naitô 
Production Management
Mitsuru Tanabe .... production manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Toshiaki Kunihara .... assistant director
Art Department
Kazuo Kajitani .... set dresser
Sound Department
Iwao Ôtani .... sound recordist
Camera and Electrical Department
Hiroya Katô .... lighting technician (as Hironari Kato)
Hiroya Katô .... lighting technician
Yasuo Matsuura .... still photographer
Music Department
Toshio Nakamoto .... natural music director
Other crew
Shôhei Miyauchi .... martial arts director

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Zatôichi monogatari" - Japan (original title)
"Zatoichi: The Life and Opinion of Masseur Ichi" - Japan (English title) (imdb display title)
See more »
96 min | USA:95 min
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

Just before Shigezo leaves for battle, his wife strikes a flint over his shoulder. This was a common good luck custom that evolved from an ancient Shinto spiritual ritual.See more »
Anachronisms: Hirate's fishing line is clearly a modern transparent nylon filament.See more »
Zatôichi:[after asking Zatoichi what she would do with having so much children] Just don't raise them to be gangsters.
Tane:I won't... But why do you say that?
Zatôichi:Because to be a gangster is a foolish way to live.
Tane:Then why don't you live a decent life?
Zatôichi:It's like being stuck in a bog; it's not easy to pull yourself you once you've fallen in.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in Chop Socky: Cinema Hong Kong (2003) (TV)See more »


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14 out of 21 people found the following review useful.
Noir cutlery, 3 April 2005
Author: Brandt Sponseller from New York City

Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) is a blind masseuse (masseuse was a traditional occupation for the blind in Japan) who took up sword fighting to gain more respect ("Zato" is actually a title--"Ichi" was his name; "Zato" was the lowest title in the traditional guild for the blind). He quickly mastered the art--far surpassing the average sword fighter and even the average samurai--as he seems to have a sixth sense. This film has Zatoichi visiting Sukegoro (Eijiro Yanagi) of Iioka, to "cash in" on some owed hospitality. He begins by slightly conning Sukegoro's gang in a gambling game involving dice. Shortly afterward, he learns that Sukegoro's gang is about to enter a war with Shigezo's (Ryuzo Shimada) rival Sasagawa gang. Shigezo has enlisted the services of Hirate (Shigeru Amachi), a famed samurai. Will Zatoichi help Sukegoro win his battle?

This is the first in a series of 26 Zatoichi films (and a television series that ran for four seasons in the 1970s), all starring Katsu in the title role. Remarkably, 25 of the Zatoichi films were made in little more than a ten-year period. This first film was based on a short story by Kan Shimozawa.

I haven't seen most of the Zatoichi films yet, and I hadn't seen any of them for a long time, so it's difficult for me to compare Zatoichi 1 with the rest of the series, but I was slightly disappointed with this film. It's a bit too much in the realm of realist drama for my tastes, and as such, moves at a slow clip. There are no big fight scenes until the last 20 minutes or so, and those aren't filmed, directed or choreographed very spectacularly. But the black and white cinematography (which only lasted for one more Zatoichi film) is frequently arresting and the dramatic material does present some intriguing situations, many concerned with various shades of ethical grayness. If you're in the market for an Asian "art-house" drama with a slight martial arts edge, Zatoichi 1 may be just the film for you. If you're looking for something more visceral, or for exciting action, it would probably be safe and wiser to start later in the series.

The visual style caught my attention more often than any other aspect of Zatoichi. Director Kenji Misumi, who went on to do five more Zatoichi films after this one, has cinematographer Chishi Makiura shoot in a stark black and white that has a strong, even exaggerated film noirish edge. The whites can be almost blinding and the darks are pitch black. There are a lot of shadows. Much of the film takes place at night and indoors. It's an attractive way to use the minimal sets. The scenes set in different environments are pleasant in their contrast. A scene at a lakeside begins with a Zen Art-styled water through branches shot. The big fight scene near the end has some interesting lake shots and even better village labyrinth shots. The climactic Western (the genre)-like showdown on a bridge is also nicely staged and photographed.

The story, using a script by Minoru Inuzuka, focuses on interesting character arcs for the two principals--Zatoichi and Hirate. Especially Zatoichi has a questionable morality when the film begins, but both gradually come to be more concerned with being honorable, just and unselfish by the film's end. This is in contrast to the characters embroiled in romantic relationship dilemmas--Otane (Masayo Banri), Tatekichi (Michio Minami) and Seisuke (Manabu Morita), and even the gang bosses, Shigezo and Sukegoro, who all have little to no character development arc, although Otane is already ethically good (per the conventional wisdom) at the beginning of the film.

But Zatoichi and Hirate are initially set against each other as surrogate representatives of warring "families", in what amounts to a yakuza/samurai version of Romeo & Juliet (and by extension West Side Story, 1961). Of course there is no romantic angle between Zatoichi and Hirate, but there is a deep respect and a bonding through a brotherly love that eventually triumphs in its own way over "turf wars". There is an expected end to their relationship, but the appearance of this development (most significantly to the gang bosses) is quite different than what is actually going on between the two of them. The romantic angle is covered instead by Zatoichi's relationship with Otane, which has the appropriate air of being forbidden to cover the Romeo and Juliet/West Side Story analogy, and which also ends up being defined by an intriguing selflessness that rarely rears its head in western (the culture) films.

Zatoichi is a fascinating character. Katsu doesn't have a typical martial arts or action star look--already in this film, he appears to be middle aged (beyond his actual age of 30 at the time of shooting) and a bit chubby. His "sixth sense" abilities and cunningness verge on the magical, as do his swordsmanship skills. The character isn't nearly as well explored here as he could be, but given that there were 25 more films to come (and a recent remake with a new Zatoichi), I suppose it's more excusable.

It doesn't help that it takes awhile to get up to speed on the relatively large cast of characters with sometimes complex relationships to one another (especially if you're like me and you have trouble remembering character names as well as trouble remembering who is who when characters have similar looks), but once you figure out that it's a kind of West Side Story, it's easy enough to get the gist of events unfolding.

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