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Masseur's whistle?

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Masseur's whistle?

Postby phreadom » Sun 04.24.2011 6:34 am

I've been watching some of the old Zatoichi (the blind swordsman) movies, and I notice a recurring theme of blind folks walking around blowing whistles, most of which seem to be masseurs.

(For the curious, you can watch the one I'm watching for free on-line at hulu. "Zatoichi's Revenge". The 10th in the series, from 1965.)

I did a little cursory googling and noticed some other references to it in literature and theater.

The blind masseur wandering the streets by night, blowing his eerie high-pitched whistle to announce his availability for massages, is frequently used in films to set a mood of strangeness.


In ancient Japan, was this customary for masseur's to walk around blowing a whistle to advertise their services? (And were they generally blind? By this I mean... did blind people generally take up massage as a way to still make a living by touch, or did people seek out blind masseurs for comfort and privacy... or both etc.) :think:

It just seems like one of those little interesting historical tidbits that would be nice to know. :bow:

zatoichi-masseur-whistle.jpg
Zatoichi blowing his masseur's whistle as he strolls through town.
zatoichi-masseur-whistle.jpg (27.14 KiB) Viewed 3120 times
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Re: Masseur's whistle?

Postby AJBryant » Wed 04.27.2011 7:37 pm

I've heard the thing about the whistles, but I have never looked into it.

As for masseurs being blind -- traditionally, yes. It was one of the few jobs commonly available to the blind, and most masseurs were blind.
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Re: Masseur's whistle?

Postby becki_kanou » Wed 04.27.2011 10:34 pm

Traditionally, and even these days it is still a common occupation. I'm friends with a blind couple and they are both massage therapists/ accupuncturists. I also had a chance to visit a school for the blind when I was an exchange student and massage/accupuncture was one of the big vocational skills that the students specialized in. Can't help you with the whistle part though.
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Re: Masseur's whistle?

Postby NileCat » Thu 04.28.2011 2:48 am

The whistle is called 按摩笛(あんまぶえ).
You might want to google it. :)
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Re: Masseur's whistle?

Postby phreadom » Thu 04.28.2011 5:29 am

Thank you for your replies! :bow:

I notice that it's also referred to as 盲笛 (めくらふえ - Blind person's whistle) in some of the results... unfortunately most of the results I found were in Chinese... :sweatdrop: But I did find a few in Japanese.

Is 盲笛 also used in Japanese? Whereas 按摩笛 has mostly Japanese results, 盲笛 has mostly Chinese results at a glance.

I suppose you could say that it is because I found such references to it. ;) But I'm wondering if one is preferred over the other, or if "blind person's whistle" has a distinctly different connotation than "masseur's whistle" etc.

:whistle:
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Re: Masseur's whistle?

Postby NileCat » Thu 04.28.2011 12:46 pm

Good point, phreadom.
I don’t know Chinese at all. But in Japanese, “mekura” is a derogatory term. In the Zatoh-Ichi movies, maybe you’d find some scenes where the word is used by bad guys like “kono do-mekura ga!”, which sounds very derisive.
This word was commonly used until some decades ago in many films or literature pieces as well and not all of them had the discriminatory nuance, however, as same as many other politically incorrect terms, we seldom use it today.
As you might have noticed, the word “zatoh”(座頭) also meant people who are blind. And some people (including broadcasting industry) assume it politically incorrect and the word itself seems to have died off today except for some noun-ish usages such as Zatoh-Ichi.
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Re: Masseur's whistle?

Postby phreadom » Thu 04.28.2011 5:14 pm

Thank you again! :bow:

I caught on from the movie dialog that Zatou also meant blind person... but I wasn't sure if "ichi" was somehow also another way of saying swordsman... so that his whole name might also be another way of saying "blind swordsman".

It appears that it's just "blind ichi" if I understand it correctly. :)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zatoichi#Character

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tōdōza
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