A much-loved movie icon in the 1960s, and a familiar face on Japanese TV in the 1970s, Zatoichi defined an era in Japanese period drama. The name was a pun, meaning either Ichi the Fourth-Ranking Disabled (a reference to samurai-era guilds), or Ichi the Master of the Sword. He was one of many itinerant onscreen trouble-shooters, but he was special – a blind warrior who occupied the lowest rung of the social ladder, a sometime minstrel or masseur, a lover of booze and gambling, and a “hero” who would often not even take part in the final confrontation. When Zatoichi blew into town, he was a hero who led by example, whose greatest victory was helping others help themselves.
(From my article on Fumihiko Sori’s remake ICHI — you can read the rest of it here).