Tōdōza

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The Tōdōza (当道座?) was a Japanese guild for blind men, established in the 14th century by the biwa hōshi Akashi Kakuichi (明石覚一?). Members performed a variety of roles, as itinerant musicians, masseurs, and acupuncturists. It received the patronage of the Muromachi and Edo shogunates, and remained active until the Meiji restoration, being eventually disbanded in 1871.

The organization was hierarchically structured. The primary ranks, known as mōkan (盲官?, blind officers), were Kengyō (検校?) (the highest), then Bettō (別当?), Kōtō (勾当?), and Zatō (座頭?); these were further subdivided into a total of 73 distinct grades. Total membership was usually around 3,000; it is not known what proportion of the total blind population this represents.

The Tōdōza accepted only male members; a separate organization, the Gozeza (瞽女座?), existed for blind women. There was additionally a further guild, the Mōsōza (盲僧座?), similar to the Tōdōza but active mostly in the western regions of Japan.

See also[edit]

  • Zatoichi, a famous fictional Tōdōza masseur.
  • Za (guilds), the Japanese guild system known as the za (座)