Echigo - blind woman


Blind woman (from Echigo) : Echigo Goze

***** Location:Japan
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Humanity


blind woman, goze 女盲, ごぜ, ゴゼ, 瞽女
blind nun, ama goze 尼ごぜ、あまごぜ

blind woman from Echigo, Echigo goze 越後女盲
越後ごぜ , 「瞽女(ごぜ)」

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The ideographs for goze mean "blind" and "woman."
The ideographs are, however, read in this manner because the word goze already existed. In fact, it probably derived from the term mekura gozen 盲御前, which also means blind woman (gozen is a formal second-person pronoun). Although the term goze can be found in medieval records, other terms such as mōjo 盲女, jomō 女盲 and the like were also in use (especially in written records) until the modern era. In the spoken language, the term goze was usually suffixed by an honorific: goze-san, goze-sa, goze-don, and the like.


CLICK for enlargementFrom the Edo period (1600-1868) goze organized themselves in a number of ways. Few large-scale organizations have been found in urban areas, though during the nineteenth century some documents speak of a goze association in the city of Edo. In Osaka and some regional towns goze were sometimes informally linked to the pleasure quarters, where they were called to perform their songs at parties and the like.

Goze organizations developed most in rural areas and continued to exist in Niigata (once known as Echigo) and Nagano prefectures well into the twentieth century (the last important active goze, Kobayashi Haru 小林ハル, died in 2005, age 105).

From the Edo period onward, other goze groups were found from Kyushu in the south to approximately Yamagata and Fukushima prefectures in the north. Farther north blind women tended to become shamans (known as itako, waka, miko or the like) rather than goze.

Large and important groups were especially active in the Kantō and surrounding areas, in what are today Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Shizuoka, Yamanashi, Tokyo-to. Other groups were formed in Nagano and Gifu prefectures, and somewhat farther south, in Aichi prefecture. In addition to the well-known groups of Niigata prefecture, groups existed in other areas along the western seaboard, including Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui prefectures.

Suzuki Shōei (1996 and elsewhere) divides the organizations of Echigo goze into three main types.

1. Goze organizations such as the one in Takada (today Jōetsu-shi), in which a limited number of goze houses (in early twentieth-century Takada 17) were concentrated in the city and in which each house was led by a master teacher who passed on the rights to her position and property to her top (or favorite) student after her death. Girls who wished to become goze had to move to the city and enter the house (fictitious family) of the goze teacher. Sometimes they were adopted by the teacher as a daughter.

2. Organizations such as the one centered on Nagaoka, in which goze remained in the countryside, often their own home, after completing their apprenticeship with a goze elsewhere. These goze teachers were loosely linked to one another by their relation to the goze head in Nagaoka (a position assumed by a goze who, after becoming the head, assumed the name Yamamoto Goi). Once each year the goze of the Nagaoka group assembled at their headquarters, the house of Yamamoto Goi, to celebrate a ceremony known as myōonkō (妙音講) in which their history and the rules of their organization was read out loud. A this they deliberated on what to do about members who had broken rules, ate a celebratory meal, and performed for one another.

3. Organizations such as the one found in Iida (Nagano prefecture), in which the position of head rotated among members.

The repertory of most goze has been lost, but songs of goze from Niigata, Nagano, Saitama, and Kagoshima prefectures have been recorded. The vast majority of these recordings are from what is today Niigata prefecture.

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Japanese Reference

高田瞽女の成り立ち Takada Goze
長岡瞽女 Nagaoka Goze
source : 越後瞽女(えちご ごぜ)

Singing On YouTube: ごぜうた・瞽女歌・ごぜ歌
source : www.echigo-gozeuta.com/

瞽女と瞽女唄の研究 : Groemer, Gerald
source : bookweb.kinokuniya

source : saikaku/yobansshi

江戸川潜流 安永四年 


- Reference -

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

Echigo Province

Echigo (越後国, Echigo no kuni) was an old province in north-central Japan, on the Sea of Japan side, northernmost part of the Hokurikudō (北陸道)circuit. It bordered on Uzen, Iwashiro, Kozuke, Shinano, and Etchu provinces. Today the area is part of Niigata prefecture, which also includes the island which was the old Sado province.

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Echigo was established by the division of Koshi province (越国 or 古志国) in the end of 7th century AD with Iwafune and Nutari District. It occupied the northeast part of Niigata prefecture today and was one of two border provinces with Emishi (the other is Mutsu). Echigo was given four districts of Kubiki, Koshi, Uonuma and Kanbara in 702. When Japan extended the territory a little northward in 708, Dewa District was established under Echigo. But this district transformed to Dewa Province in 712. Temporally Sado Province had been merged between 743 and 752. Since the division of Sado in 752, the territory of Echigo had never been changed.

Echigo was ruled by Uesugi Kenshin and his heirs during the Sengoku period; later it became a fief of Ieyasu's Matsudaira relatives.

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. Echigo joofu 越後上布(えちごじょうふ)
Joofu cloth from Echigo

kigo for all Summer

. Echigojishi 、越後獅子(えちごじし)lion dance from Echigo

kigo for the New Year


................... Issa's Haiku about Echigo

kogarashi ya kabe no ushiro wa echigo yama

winter wind--
behind the wall
is the deep north

In Issa's time "the mountains of Echigo" would have been synonymous with a cold place in the north, but for most English readers this connotation is nonexistent.

another version

. facing the river--
next door, it seems
Echigo mountains

ôyuki ya zen no kiwa kara echigo yama

heavy snow--
from the dinner tray's edge
Echigo mountains

echigo uma yo tsuyu haratte tôri keri

Echigo horse--
sweeping away the evening dew
in passing

Tr. David Lanoue

the "Jumping Horse of Echigo" appears on the slope of Mount Myokosen when the snow begins to melt and announces the spring season to the farmers.

Myookoosen 妙高山の雪形 ”跳ね馬 ”Mount Myokosan


Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉and his walk through the North of Japan:

. - - - Station 33 - Echigo 越後路 - - - .


in Fifth Month rain
behind me too...
a blind woman from Echigo

satsuki ame mata ato kara mo echigo goze

by Issa, 1821

Shinji Ogawa notes that mata ato kara mo means "from the behind also (a blind woman from Echigo)," implying that there are other blind women from Echigo in front. He adds, "They may or may not be beggars. They might be on the way to Zenkooji Temple."

Tr. David Lanoue


hoshi ine ya goze no sugata to nari ni keri

drying rice -
they really look like
the blind singers

© shunrai.shashin-haiku.jp

Related words

***** . Niigata Ryoori 新潟郷土料理
Local Food from Echigo and Niigata

***** . World Handicap Day / Black Day .

***** . WKD : Blind People .
shakutoo-e 積塔会 (しゃくとうえ)
ceremony for blind people

- #echigo -




Anonymous said...

evening stars
we may not yet see
... blind singers


Anonymous said...

leading the blind
to a bench..
purple lilac

Heike Gewi

Gabi Greve - ISSA said...

Kobayashi Issa

kogarashi ya tonari to iu mo echigo yama

biting winter wind --
the Echigo mountains
right next door

This winter hokku was written sometime in the middle of the 12th lunar month (January) in 1820. The Echigo mountains here are probably what is called the Echigo mountain range (Echigo sammyaku), a series of high mountains running basically north-south along the spine of the island of Honshu, the main island of Japan. This long spine consists of various ranges, with some high plateaus in between. Issa's hometown is on one such plateau. The Echigo range begins about 60 miles north of Issa's hometown and extends for about a hundred miles to the north. There are three other ranges of high mountains that lie further north on Honshu island, so Issa probably doesn't consider this range to be the northern edge of Japan. In Issa's time Echigo was considered northerly but at the same time the northernmost inner province on the west coast of Honshu: farther north were the large outer provinces of the north country, Dewa and Mutsu, through which Basho travels in Oku no hosomichi. For Issa the Echigo range is the nearest range to the north and has some very high peaks. The Echigo mountains rise nearby, and winter blasts like the one that's now blowing make the mountains feel even closer than usual, as if the wind were a kind of tactile extension of the mountains.

The bitterly strong winter wind in the hokku is one of the dry winds that are said to literally "wither" trees and vegetation. They blow from late fall on into winter, so it's probably a dry day between days of snowstorms. These dry winter winds usually bring lower temperatures and foretell a deepening of winter, and in this hokku the north wind blowing down from the Echigo mountain range and must be very cold. The wind is on time, since the coldest time of the year is usually around January 20. At the same time, though cold winter winds (kogarashi) were hard to endure, they were not necessarily simply disliked. The coldest part of winter is beginning, but that means lunar New Year's is coming soon, and people in the village are no doubt warmed by all sorts of preparations they're doing for the lunar New Year's. Issa may also feel invigorated by the strong winds and feel proud that he lives close to such an impressive mountain range. He and other villagers may well regard the high mountains as old friends who send both bitter winds in winter and plentiful water for rice paddies in the spring and summer. When a cold wind blows, the mountains feel even closer than usual, making them more intimate even as they as hard to bear.

In two variants, one from 1821 and another from between 1822-25, Issa writes:

bitter winter wind --
the far side of the river
right next door

kogarashi ya tonari to iu mo kawa-mukou

withering winter wind --
the Echigo mountains
right behind the wall

kogarashi ya kabe no ushiro wa echigo-yama

On one level, at least, the hokku and its variants seem to be about the importance of companionship and intimacy between humans and nature in all seasons and under all conditions.

The above is a revision of my post of 9/15/2012.

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Legend from Gunma 沼田市 Numata city 利根町 Tone village
In Tone they make offerings to Juni Sama, because in former times a goze 瞽女 blind itinerant woman had been killed there and cursed the region.
ゴゼ 30 legends to explore
Nichibun Yokai Database