Akashi Kakuichi (明石覚一)
Kakuichi AKASHI (1299-1371) was a Heike biwa (biwa with four strings and five frets used to play Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike)) musician (Ichikata school) in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan).
He was an apprentice of Takauji ASHIKAGA and governed Akashi. He was a monk of Shosha-zan Mountain in Banshu, which is an old name for part of Hyogo prefecture, until he reached his middle age, but suddenly lost his eyesight, and became a biwa-playing minstrel. He opened Todo-za (the traditional guild for the blind) at his residence, and became so-kengyo (the chairman of the highest-rank officials of the guild for the blind), to be called Akashi Kengyo (another name of Kakuichi AKASHI). He established a kengyo system, which persisted into the Edo period. Todo-za is now Rakuo Elementary School. He was an expert biwa (Japanese lute) player, and is considered a model of earless Hoichi. He is called an apprentice of the founder of the Ichikata school, and Chuko no So (father of restoration) of the Ichikata school. He often performed in front of the Imperial family, including an emperor, retired emperors, and imperial princes and princesses. It is said that he was an expert not only in playing biwa but also in massage and acupuncture.
Kakuichi performed Heikyoku (the music played on Heike biwa as accompaniment for the recitation of Heike monogatari) and was praised by nobles and samurai in those days for his unrivaled performance. A record of Kakuichi's performance of Kanjin Heike (play for collecting money for repairing or constructing temples) in 1362 is found in the chapter on the 26th day of the New Year in "Moromori-ki," which is a diary of Moromori NAKAHARA.
He made a remarkable achievement in making Heikyoku popular during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts to the Muromachi period.
He edited 'Kakuichi-bon Text,' which later became the standard "The Tale of the Heike." There had been a trend toward separation of 'Kanjo no maki' (the Initiate's Chapter) from "The Tale of the Heike," but it was finally separated by Kakuichi. Kanjo no maki is a chapter describing days of nenbutsu-zanmai (mental absorption in the nenbutsu) of TAIRA no Tokuko, who jumped into the sea in the naval battle of Danno-ura but was rescued and entered the priesthood, and a tragic love story of a maid. Among one hundred and several tens of denpon (existent books of transcription and published books) of "The Tale of the Heike," transcription and published books of the 'Kakuichi-bon Text' line as narration books for "The Tale of the Heike" assume an important role, and especially those based on Takano bon (Takano book) formally owned by Tatsuyuki TAKANO and currently by the Laboratory of Japanese, the University of Tokyo have been popularly distributed. The important cultural property "The Tale of the Heike" owned by the Kora Taisha Shrine in the Chikugo Province is also a Kakuichi-bon Text.
Since he was from the Ashikaga Family, he was under the patronage of the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), and opened Todo-za, which was an autonomous mutual support group of visually impaired males that existed in the Medieval Period to the early-modern times. Todo-za was to advance visually impaired people and to secure their regular vocation, but also served as an educational institution for regular vocation to pass on skills from a master to an apprentice, and honjo (lord of the guild) was the Koga family of the Murakami-Genji (Minamoto Clan).
In the Edo period, Todo-za was authorized by the Edo bakufu, and was under the jurisdiction of jisha-bugyo (magistrate of temples and shrines). So-kengyo was placed in Kyoto, and Kanto so-kengyo was placed in Edo for a while.
The office governed by so-kengyo was called 'Todo shokuyashiki.'
Shokuyashiki was located at Seijuan near the Higashinotoin-dori street, and it is said that this is where the Kakuichi's residence was. This is now an elementary school, and there is a stone monument beside a school gate.