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  • Born: c. 1300?
  • Died: 1371

Kakuichi was a biwa hôshi, a blind, itinerant, biwa-playing storyteller, credited with creating what came to be the standard version of the Tale of the Heike.

Little is known about his early life, but he may have originally been a monk of Enkyô-ji (in Himeji). After losing his sight in his 30s, he is said to have come to Kyoto and joined the Tôdôza, the biwa hôshi guild; he is known to have been active in the guild by 1340, and is believed to have been around 40 years of age at that time. Saikai yotekishû, a diary by a member of the court aristocracy, relates that by that time, he was already known for performing a different sort of Heike song, which would then come to be adopted by many others, and to become the standard mode of performing the Tale of the Heike. Enkyô-ji, also known as Shoshazan, is known to have been a prominent center of Buddhist music in the 15th century, and some have suggested that Kakuichi may have drawn upon the music or chanting of Shosazan in forming his unique style, but, it's not known whether Kakuichi indeed had any relation to the temple, or if the temple's musical prominence extends back into the 14th century.

Kakuichi's version of the Tale of the Heike, which he developed over several decades beginning in the 1330s or 1340s, was written down in 1371; he died later that year. The Tôdôza had already split, by that time, over the question of whether to adopt or reject Kakuichi's unorthodox style. Both the Yasaka-ryû, which rejected it, and the Ichikata-ryû, which embraced his style, remained strong until the Ônin War, after which the Yasaka-ryû declined, and the tradition based on Kakuichi's style and text became the standard.


  • Helen McCullough trans., The Tale of the Heike, Stanford University Press (1990), 6-8.