Blind persons playing active part in the middle ages

Blind biwa minstrel

There was already an organization of the Blind from the Muromachi period (1333-1573), and especially the blind biwa minstrels were playing an active part.

The medieval Japanese prose narrative "Heike monogatari" (The Tale of the Heike) is the magnificent literary work about the rise and fall of the Heike family (warriors) ruined by the rival warriors the Genji family who later established the government in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture in 1185.

The tale was narrated by the blind person playing the biwa, and it came to be loved by even the populace at large, rather than read.

AKASHI Kakuichi (明石覚一: 1330-1371) was praised as the blind expert as a biwa minstrel who summarized this tale in the present form.

It is reported that he was a cousin of ASHIGAKA Takauji (1305-1358), the founder of the Muromachi government in Kyoto.

Kakuichi worked aiming at improvement in the social standing of the Blind including a biwa minstrel, and formed the guild system for the blind. 

In contrast, there was no social or vocational organization for the Deaf at that time.

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