Japanese director Junji Sakamoto has started shooting Zatoichi The Last, starring SMAP member Shingo Katori in the lead role of the famed blind swordsman, for Japan's Sedic International and Toho Studios.

Toho has announced a 2010 release for the film which has secured investment from Celluloid Dreams. The French sales agent also handled word sales for Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi in 2003.

The story follows blind masseur and master swordsman Zatoichi after he has sheathed his sword for good, attempting to settle into a quiet life with his wife. During the journey to her hometown he's provoked back into battle.

Katori is best known as the youngest member of singing and TV entertainment troupe SMAP. His previous feature film roles include hits Monkey Magic (2007) and Suite Dreams (2006).

Sakamoto's recent films have included Toei crime film Chameleon and controversial Thai-set drama Children Of The Dark. Zatoichi marks his first foray into period action.

Based on a character created by novelist Kan Shimozawa and embodied by late legendary actor Shintaro Katsu, Zatoichi spawned 26 feature films and 100 television episodes between 1962 and 1989.

The franchise has seen at least two recent reinventions - Kitano's 2003 Zatoichi and last year's female incarnation Ichi, directed by Sori Fumihiko.

Sedic International CEO and Zatoichi The Last producer Toshiaki Nakazawa, who also produced Oscar winner Departures, cited the character's physique and sometimes ribald behaviour as reasons for casting Katori, who has been training his sword skills since last June.

Nakazawa also stated that this would be the final incarnation of the character across any media.