Hands of a Goze (Blind Female Musician)





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Published on Feb 9, 2014

Full Title: Hands of a Goze (Blind Female Musician) - The Tactile Culture of Visually Impaired People in Modern Japan

Lecture Date: January 30, 2014
Speaker: Kojiro Hirose, Visiting Scholar, University of Chicago; Associate Professor, Graduate University for Advanced Studies and National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan

The Goze were blind female musicians who traveled around Japan with shamisen (Japanese plucked stringed instruments). After World War II, with the expansion of welfare services for the disabled and the enhancement of education in schools for the blind, the culture of Goze came to be seen as a relic of pre-modern times, and the fact that there has been no successor to this culture is considered an inevitability of history. With the passing of Haru Kobayashi (1900-2005), who was known as the last Goze, the culture that had been maintained by visually-impaired people disappeared from Japanese society in the 21st century. However, would we wish that the Goze culture be forgotten completely?

I would like to focus on the hands of a Goze and approach the relevance and the possibility of the Goze culture from three different angles: touching the sound, touching the color, and touching the heart. Taking a hint from the Goze uta (Goze folk songs) which Goze created and spread as their own oral traditions, I intend to clarify the role that the tactile culture of the visually impaired should play in today's society.

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