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In the The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2003) the titular character is always presented with closed eyes, therefore, everybody treats him as a blind man (hence the title).

However, towards the end of the movie, one of the villains says "A blind man like you won't slay me easily". For this, Zatoichi replies:

by opening his eyes:

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Vilain: Why do you act blind?
Zatoichi: Because the blind, they sense people better!

Similarly, later on, another character says:

I knew that you could see! I knew the first time you came here.

Was he lying in those scenes (if so - why?) or was he lying through to everyone else up to that point?

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    Spoilerless titles in all honours, but...you're asking if some dude faked some disability about a movie called The Blind Swordsman. I feel the title's obfuscation quite misses its purpose.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 0:47
  • @NapoleonWilson Well... if you have another idea, please edit it. Also, in this movie, there are quite a few people pretending/faking (male geisha, not so helpless grandpa etc).
    – Yasskier
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 0:51
  • @NapoleonWilson better now? :)
    – Yasskier
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 19:59
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    "Was this character lying?" is like no title at all. Where would be a "spoiler" in asking simple "Is Zatoichi really blind in The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi"? Answer obviously could have a huge spoiler, but it would be instantly signalised.
    – Mithoron
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 20:26

2 Answers 2

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No, Zatoichi never fakes his blindness. He is truly blind. At least that is what most people familiar with the tale of Zatoichi and the series would tell you. The character is intended to present as a weak blind man who is strong on the inside.

The Zatoichi films, not only a 2003 movie but a long running series, were first made in the 1960s, with the main character being a seemingly harmless weakling, a pushover in appearance. A masseur by trade, he wanders the country. Masseurs, both the profession and the practitioners, were known as anma/按摩 in Japan. Most masseurs were blind. The character's name is actually Ichi (市) and zatō (座頭) is an old-fashioned way to call the social class of blind men working as masseurs, acupuncturists, and lutists.

The film series' Wikipedia page has pretty detailed explanation of the character:

The character's name is actually Ichi. Zatō is a title, the lowest of the four official ranks within the Tōdōza, the historical guild for blind men (thus, zato also designates a blind person in Japanese slang). Ichi is therefore properly called Zatō-no-Ichi ("Low-Ranking Blind Person Ichi", approximately), or Zatōichi for short. Massage was a traditional occupation for the blind (as their lack of sight removed the issue of gender), as was playing the biwa or, for blind women (goze), the shamisen. Being lesser Hinin (lit. "non-people"), blind people and masseurs were regarded as among the very lowest of the low in social class, other than Eta or outright criminals; they were generally considered wretches, beneath notice, no better than beggars or even the insane—especially during the Edo period—and it was also commonly thought that the blind were accursed, despicable, severely mentally disabled, deaf and sexually dangerous.

And actually your quoted lines are pretty telling of the character. When asked if he is blind, Zatoichi replies: "Not at all." He does not mean he is not physiologically blind. He is. No doubt about it. He is saying that he is not blind in the heart and with his heart he can see clearly all the darkness in the world that he is battling. In the same vein people say "a blind heart" or "blindness of the heart". It is for the same reason another character comments: "I knew that you could see! I knew the first time you came here." meaning: "I know you could see clearly with your heart. You are a sage."

Note: It has been a long while since I saw this movie, so I am writing from memory, but I think the gist is clear.

The greatness of the character of Zatoichi lies in the fact that he comes from the lowest rung of the society, he is severely physically challenged, and he is looked down upon by almost every new person he meets. But he is strong, both spiritually and in swordsmanship. Keywords: contradiction, surprises, spirituality.

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    While I knew that there are other Zatoichi movies, this one was supposed to be a sort of a reboot, so I thought that his origin and status has been changed. A good answer then, I never thought that he meant that he can figuratively "see injustice".
    – Yasskier
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 20:05
  • This might be a good answer if the question was talking about the original series of movies. But it doesn't appear to be relevant to the 2003 Takeshi Kitano version. And the use of ideas that were true in the original series to reinterpret fairly clear statements in the 2003 one is not at all convincing.
    – matt_black
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 13:12
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In that last scene, I think its makeup: Zatoichi drew eyes like this in previous scenes, which are commonly mistaken as real eyes. Due to this reason, I think they are used to threaten.

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