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Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (1965)

Zatôichi jigoku tabi (original title)
Not Rated | | Action, Adventure, Drama | 24 December 1965 (Japan)
A samurai with a high skill in chess makes friends with Zatoichi, who finds that things become peculiar in his presence.


Kenji Misumi


Daisuke Itô, Kan Shimozawa (story)




Credited cast:
Shintarô Katsu ... Zatoichi
Mikio Narita ... Tadasu Jumonji
Chizu Hayashi ... Kume
Kaneko Iwasaki ... Tane
Gaku Yamamoto ... Tomonoshin Sagawa
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Saburô Date
Tatsuo Endô ... Yakuza boss of Ejimaya
Takuya Fujioka Takuya Fujioka
Naoko Fujiyama ... Miki
Ryutaro Gomi Ryutaro Gomi
Ryô Horikawa
Kanae Kobayashi Kanae Kobayashi ... Widow Tarozaemon
Keiko Koyanagi Keiko Koyanagi
Tarô Marui Tarô Marui ... Roppei
Fujio Suga ... Injury prone Banyu yakuza
Learn more

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Promising to make a delivery for a dying man, the blind swordsman Zatoichi comes across the usual crime gangs but also meets a blind monk who brings into question his use of violence.

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When Zatoichi witnesses the murder of a young mother he promises to deliver the baby to the father. Along the way he gains the help of a reluctant criminal.

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Zatoichi, while fighting off the usual group of gangsters, meets the apprentice of the swordsman who created his blade, who relays bad news about the sword.

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The blind swordsman tries to locate a girl's missing father.

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After an artist is threatened by the yakuza into creating valuable but highly illegal pornography, the law aims to execute him. Zatoichi, having been honor bound to protect the man and his family, must now run against the law.

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Zatoichi is mistaken for a thief. To clear his name he must find and defeat the real villain.

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In a town where debt-ridden peasants are being ruthlessly exploited, Zatoichi is forced to take sides between a cruel yakuza boss and his seemingly altruistic rival.

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Zatoichi runs afoul of some evil fugitives, working for a corrupt law official.

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After being wounded in a fight, Zatoichi is nursed to health by a young woman and her father. Now indebted to the family, he works to protect their ferry business from local thugs.

Director: Kazuo Ikehiro
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Tatsuo Endô, Takashi Etajima


Zatoichi makes friends with a dangerous chess player, while fending off angry yakuza and bloodthirsty relatives out for revenge, and trying to save a sick child. Meanwhile, his luck with dice is turning... Written by eirias <eirias@iname.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Zatoichi: You have to understand, Otane. The man you're looking at is dirt. And everyone who comes close to him or touches him, in one way or another gets muddied by that dirt. There's nothing I can do about being dirt myself, but I don't want you to get mired in my dirt.
See more »


Followed by Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival (1970) See more »

User Reviews

Complex plot meets emotional mystery and intriguing characters
10 March 2018 | by klusebaSee all my reviews

Zatoichi and the Chess Expert is the twelfth entry in the franchise and one of the best movies about the blind masseur, skilled gambler and skillful swordsman. The story of this film is unusually clever, complex and twisted. Zatoichi meets a smart chess player while traveling on a ship and the two end up respecting one another so much that they start traveling together. When Zatoichi is attacked by some folks whom he tricked during a dice game on the ship, a young girl traveling with a beautiful woman gets injured, so Zatoichi organizes some medicine and travels with the two as he grows fond of the joyful child. Zatoichi also encounters a sick man and his sister who is disguised as a man to avoid trouble on the road who travel with a helpful retainer who gets brutally murdered during a prayer. Soon enough, these three seemingly different story lines end up being connected in most surprising ways as Zatoichi needs to figure out who is friend and who is foe.

What I really liked about this film is the complex story with its numerous clever twists. The characters also have great depth. Even Zatoichi seems more emotional than usual as he opens up about the love of his life and his low self-esteem while being caring, helpful and respectful to those who need his help. The perfectly portrayed chess expert is hard to figure out because of his harsh convictions versus his impressive intelligence. The young woman Zatoichi travels with falls in love with the blind samurai and is at times desperate and at other times joyful about their complicated relationship. Her child is quirky but polite and its heart-warming to see how the girl and Zatoichi grow fond of one another. The sick man, his mysterious sister and his helpful retainer are also quite intriguing characters. This movie is more than just a classic chambara film and also a drama for all the complex relationships going on and a thriller because of the cruel murder of the retainer. The movie's atmosphere gets more and more mysterious throughout the nicely paced film. The landscapes are memorable, gorgeous and authentic, especially the port and ship in the beginning of the film and the modest inn with the hot springs that plays a central role in this film. The fight scenes are more vivid than in the preceding film. Most sword fights occur at the beginning and in the final five minutes but they are nicely choreographed. My favorite fight scene was when Zatoichi got ambushed in the middle of the night in the muddy meadows while carrying the expensive medicine for the sick child.

There really isn't much to criticize regarding one of the franchise's very best films. Obviously, there are some recurring elements in the movie such as numerous gambling scenes, traditional sword fights and Zatoichi traveling through rural landscapes but these predictable elements give each film about the blind masseur their very own identity.

If you like sword fighting movies or care for Japanese culture, history and nature, you will particularly like Zatoichi and the Chess Expert. You an learns more about Japan in one hour and a half here than you could by watching anime for a whole year. Since this is one of the most profound entries in the franchise, this movie would be recommendable to get to know a true piece of Japanese art.

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Release Date:

24 December 1965 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Zatoichi and the Chess Expert See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Daiei Studios See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)


Color (Daieicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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