Akashi Kakuichi

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Akashi Kakuichi (明石 覚一, 1299 – 10 August 1371) also known as Akashi Kengyō (明石検校) was a Japanese Buddhist monk of the early Muromachi period of Japanese history, noted as the blind itinerant lute player (biwa hōshi)[1] who gave the epic Heike Monogatari its present form.


Little is known about his early life, but Kakuichi may have originally been a monk of Enkyō-ji near Himeji in Harima Province and may have been a nephew of Ashikaga Takauji. After losing his sight in his 30s, he is said to have come to Kyoto and joined the Tōdōza, a biwa hōshi guild, performing versions of the Heike Monogatari as entertainment for members of the aristocracy. Kakuichi was a student of Jōichi ( 城一 ), the most famous Heike reciter in Kyoto, but soon surpassed his master and 1363 had the attained the highest rank ( 検校 , Kengyō ) within the guild. On his death, he was posthumous awarded the rank of Grand Master ( 総検校 , Sōkengyō ).


Kakuichi's version of the Heike Monogatari, known as the Kakuichi-bon, was developed over several decades beginning in the 1330s or 1340s, and was written down only a few months before his death as he recited it to his pupil Teiichi. The Tōdōza split over whether or not to accept Kakuichi’s new version, with the Yasaka-ryu rejecting it, and the Ichikata-ryu accepting it. The Yasaka-ryu declined after the Onin War, leaving the tradition in the hands of the Ichikata-ryu. The Kakuichi-bon is currently the most popular version, and is the version used for most scholarly studies.[2]


  • Ruch, Barbara (1990). The Cambridge History of Japan. Vol. 3. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521223547. pp 500–543
  • McCullough, Helen Craig. (1988). The Tale of the Heike. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804714181; OCLC 16472263


  1. ^ Sato, Hiroaki (1995). Legends of the Samurai. Overlook Duckworth. p. 188. ISBN 9781590207307.
  2. ^ Matisoff, Susan (2006). The Legend of Semimaru, Blind Musician of Japan. Cheng & Tsui. ISBN 0887276504. pp 42