WKD - Blind People


Do blind people write haiku..?

This question strikes me as rather odd.
Almost like asking :
Can blind people feel happy ?


kigo for late spring

shakutoo-e 積塔会 (しゃくとうえ)
ceremony for blind people

..... shakutoo-e 石塔会(しゃくとうえ)
shakutoo 石塔(しゃくとう)"stone pagoda"
..... shakutoo 積塔(しゃくとう)
zatoo shakutoo 座頭積塔(ざとうしゃくとう)

Zatoo 座頭 blind minstrel

February 16
Blind people like biwa players (zatoo) meet on Kyoto, Seiju-an 清聚庵 at Shinomiya Kawara 四宮川原 and pray to the Deity of Blind People Amayo no mikoto 雨夜尊. This is a memorial service to the fourth son (shi no miya) of emperor Ninmyo 仁明天皇 (810 - 50), who was blind. He was a good player of the biwa.
This area of Kyoto is in the "demon direction" kimon in the northwest of the town. The blind monks and people each one places a stone on top of the other to build a "stone tower" in memory of all the blind people of Japan. Blind monks recice the "Heart Sutra" (Hanya Shinkyo) for 1000 times.
Later they sing and feast.

source: fukuchi shoten
Painting by Yosa Buson


observance kigo for late summer

zatoo no suzumi 座頭の納涼 (ざとうのすずみ)
blind people enjoying the cool

suzumi no too 涼の塔(すずみのとう) memorial stone pagoda in the coolness
suzumi shakutoo 、涼み積塔(すずみしゃくとう)

On the 19th day of the sixth lunar month, a special memorial service is held for the blind. It is also the memorial day for emperor Kookoo Tennoo 光孝天皇 Koko Tenno, who was the first blind emperor.

光孝天皇 Koko Tenno

830 - 887
The third son of Emperor Ninmyoo.
The Taira clan of Koko Heishi 光孝平氏 dates back to Emperor Koko.

. SAIJIKI ... Ceremonies and Festivals  


topic for haiku

blind woman, goze 女盲, ごぜ, ゴゼ, 瞽女
blind nun, ama goze 尼ごぜ、あまごぜ

From the Edo period (1600-1868) goze organized themselves in a number of ways.
. blind woman from Echigo, Echigo goze 越後女盲 .
越後ごぜ , 「瞽女(ごぜ)」


a warm smile on the
blind man's face -
summer sunshine

autumn sunset -
the blind man reaches
for his dog

the tearful eyes
of a blind woman -
winter sun

cheerful laughter
in the blind kid's school -
spring sunshine


source : Jules Bastien-Lepage

the look
in the blind beggar's eyes -
autumn sunset

Gabi Greve


kiji naku ya zatoo ga hashi o hau toki ni

a pheasant cries out
as a blind man crawls
across the bridge

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku is from the 2nd month (March) of 1818, when Issa was traveling around to various villages and towns near his hometown. In his diary at this time Issa has three hokku in a row about pheasants, of which the above hokku is the second. All three seem to be serious and based on close observation.

In the hokku, the pheasant has noticed something it feels to be important or dangerous, and it turns out to be a blind man (or woman -- the gender is not given) crawling across a nearby bridge. Perhaps it is a narrow bridge with no railing, or perhaps there is ice or cold rain on the bridge, making it slippery. In any case, the blind man decides it would be dangerous to try to walk across, and he gets down on his hands and knees and crawls across instead. The pheasant probably doesn't understand what's happening, but Issa seems impressed by the way it senses something is unusual or wrong.

The pheasant isn't warning of danger to itself, but it might be warning of danger it vaguely senses to another creature. Issa understands what's happening, and he may be using the pheasant's loud, sharp cry to suggest his own momentary worry for the safety of the blind man. There's no hint in the wording of the hokku that Issa is making fun of the blind man or comparing blindness to any form of benightedness or spiritual lack. After all, imperfection is the human condition, and Amida accepts sincere humans in spite of their weaknesses. Issa often compares himself to a beggar and calls himself a fool, and he is surely sympathizing with the man who is forced to crawl in order to stay alive. Perhaps the hokku is intended as a human form of crying out.

The word zatou literally means 'group leader' and is the lowest of four ranks in the organization created by blind performers in the Edo period. In addition to chanting ballads and plays, telling stories, and singing and composing songs to the accompaniment of various instruments, blind professionals were active in many fields, especially in acupuncture and massage. The term zatou can also simply mean a blind person.

Chris Drake
. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

zato boo ya aka wan de hae oi-nagara

the blind priest
with his red bowl...
shooing flies

Tr. David Lanoue

Two Blind Men Crossing a Log Bridge

. Hakuin Ekaku (白隠 慧鶴 Hakuin Ekaku) .
(1686-1769 or 1685-1768)


stop sign . . .
the blind veteran waves
a dozen roses

Don Baird


Close your eyes and spend one whole day like that!
Then you will know the answer, I hope.
WKD : World Handicap Day .. Black Day for the Blind

Haiku Topics in the World Kigo Database


bedtime story
my grandfathers' fingers
touching the Braille

- Shared by John Wisdom -
Joys of Japan, 2012


Blind People and Elephant 盲人と象 - Hokusai

O how they cling and wrangle, some who claim
For preacher and monk the honored name!
For, quarreling, each to his view they cling.
Such folk see only one side of a thing.

. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) 葛飾北斎 .


座頭かと人に見られて月見哉 / zatō
zatoo ka to hito ni mirarete tsukimi kana

I appear to people
like a blind man
watching the moon . . .

Written in 1686, Basho age 43. 貞亨3年八月十五夜
Basho was wearing the outfit of a monk, often used by blind poeple.

The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.
zatoo was one of the four grades of the Biwa Hooshi singers 琵琶法師:
kengyoo 検校 - bettoo 別当 - kootoo 勾当 - zatoo 座頭

During the Edo period it was also used for other kind of blind people.

. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .
. tsukimi 月見 つきみ moon viewing .

- quote -
The Story of the Blind Bankers of Edo Era Japan
Centuries ago, members of the Todoza saw no reason why being blind should keep them from being rich
By Cezary Jan Strusiewicz
- source : tokyoweekender.com/2021 ... -


. Pagoda and Stone Pagoda - Topics for Haiku




Billie Dee said...

a blind girl
sits beneath the cherry tree
enjoying the view

a blind woman listens
to the snow

Thank you Gabi san for bringing this issue to our attention.

--Billie Dee
California, USA

brett brady said...

park bench...
her hand resting on his
white cane

-brett brady

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...


zatō ka to / hito ni mirarete / tsukimi kana

Matsuo Basho

Gabi Greve - facebook said...

the blind man
watching everything
with his ears

Donall Dempsey, fb

Gabi Greve said...

shakutoo-e 積塔会 (しゃくとうえ)
ceremony for blind people

..... shakutoo-e 石塔会(しゃくとうえ)
shakutoo 石塔(しゃくとう)"stone pagoda"
..... shakutoo 積塔(しゃくとう)
zatoo shakutoo 座頭積塔(ざとうしゃくとう)

Gabi Greve - Kappa said...

Netsuke of Kappa Leading a Blind Man

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Edo Edo Edo
sokuriki 足力 "strong legs" massage
sokuriki anma 足力按摩 / 足力あんま massage with the feet

A kind of massage with the feet, by stepping on the back and kicking the patient.

anma 按摩 Amma massage

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

zato no boo naka ni tsutsunde shigure keri

cold hard rain
enfolding within it
a blind musician

This hokku is from the eleventh month (December) of 1814, when Issa had left his hometown and was on a trip to Edo to formally say farewell to the haikai poets and teachers he knew there before he moved back to his hometown in the mountains of Shinano.

The term zato no bō that constitutes the first line refers to a blind man of a certain official rank recognized by the shogunate as a form of welfare for the blind. There were four ranks of skilled professional blind performers, and zato no bō, the fourth of these ranks, literally meant 'a priest who sits in the seat of honor at a za or place where something is performed.' Sometimes all four ranks were simply referred to in daily language as zato or zatō. People of all four ranks were most commonly licensed to perform with a large biwa lute, a three-stringed shamisen, or a koto zither. Some blind people of zato no bō rank were also licensed to do acupuncture or massage or even to work as sumo wrestlers. People of the fourth rank were regarded as the least skilled, although ranks could be bought with money. Some performers were actually Buddhists priests, but the term 'priest' was euphemistic and referred to the custom for all members of the four ranks to shave their heads, whether they were priests of not. These musicians were very proud of their skills and made a living by going to people's houses and to parties or festivals and performing there.

In the hokku one such performer carries his biwa lute or similar instrument toward a home or building where he will give an intimate performance, or perhaps he is on the way home after a concert. A series of sudden rain showers are falling on this day, so he has probably put his instrument in a bag to protect it from the rain. The December rain must be almost freezing cold, and at the moment it is probably coming down hard (-keri), making it difficult for the man to go forward without slipping and falling. The rain is falling so hard it enfolds or wraps the musician within it, so he can probably be heard tapping and perhaps singing in the street before he can be seen. As he sings he may feel a lot like some of the melancholy people he sings about so beautifully during his performances. This strong, dynamic image by Issa is also a bit heroic: the musician keeps on going forward in spite of his difficulties though an intense, collective world of nearly pure sound in which visibility, even for those who can see, isn't much above zero.

In this picture a blind musician plays his biwa lute and sings about medieval warriors in battle:

Below is a picture of a biwa performer (in this case a specter or ghost [yōkai] posing as a blind biwa player) with his instrument inside a protective bag:

* The word bōchū / bōjū (坊中) does not seem to appear in this hokku.

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Nagano
阿智村 Achi village

amaoto, ama-oto 雨音 the sound of rain
A zatoo 座頭 blind minstrel lost his way on the Chuma Kaido, slipped and fell deep down a waterfall.
Since then before it starts to rain people can hear the sound of rain far away.
and more legends to explore

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Hyogo
A zatoo 座頭 Zato, blind minstrel was on his way to a cure at 有馬 Arima Hot Spring, but he died on the way.
If anyone passes this valley, 座頭谷 Zatodani, he will be bewitched by Hidarubo.