Zatoichi is a 19th century blind nomad who makes his living as a gambler and masseur. However, behind this humble facade, he is a master swordsman gifted with a lightning-fast draw and breathtaking precision. While wandering, Zatoichi discovers a remote mountain village at the mercy of Ginzo, a ruthless gang-leader. Ginzo disposes of anyone who gets in his way, especially after hiring the mighty samurai ronin, Hattori, as a bodyguard. After a raucous night of gambling in town, Zatoichi encounters a pair of geishas--as dangerous as they are beautiful--who've come to avenge their parents' murder. As the paths of these and other colorful characters intertwine, Ginzo's henchmen are soon after Zatoichi. With his legendary cane sword at his side, the stage is set for a riveting showdown.
The adventures of a blind, gambling masseur and master swordsman. Zatoichi targets a yakuza-controlled village, because war with a neighbouring town's smaller gang is brewing.
Blind masseur and master swordsman Zatoichi finds a robbed and fatally wounded pregnant woman, whose baby he delivers before she dies. He takes the baby in search of its father and finds the child's aunt, who is about to be forced into prostitution for want of a payment the dead mother was bringing. Zatoichi determines to save the woman from her cruel fate.
Older, wiser but still a wandering loner, the blind, peace-loving masseur Ichi seeks a peaceful life in a rural village. When he's caught in the middle of a power struggle between two rival Yakuza clans, his reputation as a deadly defender of the innocent is put to the ultimate test in a series of sword-slashing showdowns.
After accidentally causing the death of an old lady, Zatoichi tries to do right by buying the lady’s daughter’s freedom from a brothel - but this causes more problems than solves them.
Blind swordsman/masseuse Zatoichi befriends a young woman looking for her father, a village leader who has disappeared. As he helps her investigate the disappearance, Zatoichi also becomes involved with another young woman who is trying to help her brother, who has murdered someone at about the same time and place as the missing man was last seen.
Ichi is staying at an inn when a woman dies. Her dying wish is that Ichi take her son to his father, an artist living in a nearby town. After arriving in the town, Ichi finds out that the father has been forced by a local boss to create illegal pornography to pay off his gambling debts. Ichi makes it his mission to save tha man and reunite the family, even though it brings him into conflict with a samurai he sort of befriended on his way to the town.
Itinerant masseur and master swordsman, the blind Zatoichi, is near the village of his teacher, Hikonoichi, so he decides to visit. He learns of Hikonoichi's recent robbery and murder and the imprisonment of his virginal daughter, Osayo, in a brothel. Through friendship with Denroku, a local dice thrower and devoted father, Ichi uncovers an unholy alliance between the governor and the area strongman: among their scams is falsifying tax records to put farmers in debt, then forcing their daughters into prostitution at the boss's brothel. With help from Denroku's daughter, Otsuru, Ichi comforts Osayo until he can provoke showdowns with the villains and their henchmen.
Blind swordsman/masseuse Zatoichi befriends a young woman returning home with her baby. When gangsters mistake her for Zatoichi and kill her, Zatoichi determines to escort the baby to its father. He gains the reluctant help of a young pick pocket and together they travel to find the baby's father. But they do not reckon on the father's reaction to their arrival, nor on their own growing feelings for the child.
Blind swordsman Zatoichi, jailed briefly, is implored by another prisoner to aid him in proving his innocence of a crime for which he is sentenced to death. Zatoichi is reluctant to get involved, because he knows how often such involvement has led to trouble in the past. But events conspire to thrust him repeatedly into involvement, and gradually he comes to believe in the man's innocence and determines to free him.
Wishing to find peace, Zatoichi travels to his old village but only finds trouble when he ends up in a love triangle and finds old scores have followed him home.
With a price on his head, Ichi seeks tranquillity in a favorite village. Since his last visit, it has fallen prey to Boss Masagoro, the son of a merchant rumored to have stolen gold from the shogunate. The boss has hired Yojimbo as his hard-drinking enforcer, but Yojimbo is both a spy for the shogunate, trying to find the gold, and in love with the merchant's unwilling mistress, Umeno. Ichi hires on as the merchant's masseur and buys Umeno's freedom with his employer's own money. This embarrasses Yojimbo who withdraws from a pact with Ichi to stir up trouble between father and son and their gangs. As the two sides fight, Ichi finds the gold and sets up a final set of confrontations.
Zatoichi makes friends with a dangerous chess player, while fending off angry yakuza and bloodthirsty relatives out for revenge, and trying to save a sick child. Meanwhile, his luck with dice is turning.
Zatoichi is forced to kill a young man who owes a debt to a yakuza boss. Moments later, his sister Osode arrives with the money she earned (prostituting herself) to pay his debts. The bosses true motives are revealed and he attempts to steal Osode even though the debt is paid. Zatoichi realizes his grievous error and protects the girl from the gang. Osode and Zatoichi are caught in a dilemma as she must rely on her brother's killer for protection and Zatoichi wrestles with the injustice he has caused.
Zatoichi comes upon a dying man who asks him to give a bag of money to "Taichi". Zatoichi has no idea who this is but when he comes upon a small town harassed by gangsters, he finds that "Taichi" was the man's young son. Along his travels he also met a blind monk who makes Zatoichi question his murderous lifestyle. In trying to help the town, Zatoichi kills some gangsters and becomes a hero to the boy. He must make a choice of whether to use non-violence and set a good example, or violence and set the boy on the wrong path in life.
Blind masseur Zatoichi is nursed back to health by a young woman after he is shot by a gang member. Zatoichi, who had come to the village to repay a debt, now feels further indebted. He commits himself to use his amazing sword skills to help the young woman's father, whose river-crossing service is under attack by the same gang responsible for Zatoichi's wounds.
After arriving in the town of Shimonita, Ichi finds that a price has been put on his head by a local yakuza boss. He's drawn into a trap, but after hearing of the slaying of a former love, Ichi furiously fights his way through the entire clan to face the killer, a hired ronin.
Takashi Miike directs a stage version of Zatoichi, the tale of the blind swordsman.
Ichi travels to the village of Itakura to pay his respects at the grave of Kichizo, a man he killed two years ago. When some tax money is stolen while in transit to the governor he is accused and sets out to find the money and clear his name.
Returning to the village where a year before he had killed Hirate, a much-admired opponent, Zatoichi encounters another swordsman and former rival in love: his own brother. He must face in combat not only the pursuing retainers but his own flesh-and-blood.
Blind masseur Zatôichi travels from town to town gambling, drinking, and fighting off the local gangs.