The film opens with a lone figure fighting it's way through a snowstorm. We then find the figure playing a shamisen in the doorway of a household hoping to find shelter but being refused. The figure winds up in a small building just outside the property when a servant comes out bringing food from the household figuring the traveler would be there. Upon seeing the traveler is a beautiful young woman the servant attempts to accost her only to discover that blind doesn't equal helpless and just because a sword isn't in plain sight doesn't mean there isn't one present at the cost of most of two fingers. As he runs off a glimpse is found of the coldness Ichi lives in with both her blindness and her personality.
The scene then morphs to one of her childhood as Ichi remembers traveling in the snow as a member of group of goze (a class in fuedal Japan that blind women were in who organized themselves in order to try to make a living often as musicians). Her reminiscence is broken up by the woman who is living at the temple she is currently at who makes her living through prostitution. The woman through talking with Ichi provides the exposition that goze are driven from their groups when they have an affair with a man which provides some clues as to why Ichi is seen as she is by the people she encounters. Ichi sits quietly behind the temple as the woman conducts her business and then starts being beaten by three thugs when she demands payment.
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