This concept, which we are mostly familiar with from Steven Seagal and Jackie Chan movies, has a story that started in the 1600s. Dictionary writer “aimo” explains.
Everyone knows that yakuza is the “Japanese mafia”. So where did these men first come from and how did they become famous?
We can trace the origins of yakuza back to the early 1600s. Some samurai, called kabukimono, with their extravagant clothes and haircuts, terrorized the villages and towns of Japan as they wished, with their long swords called nodachi, and sometimes even killed people for pleasure. These kabukimonos, who were generally directly affiliated with the shogun and also called hatamoto-yakko (servants of the shogun), would travel around the cities in large and small groups that they formed themselves. They were extremely rude to people who were not from their own group, they spoke in slang and pushed and shoved; But they were very loyal and respectful to people from their own group. They held each other in high regard and protected each other against possible dangers that would befall their distorted “family”. However, these crowded kabukimono groups, who were unemployed in the peace environment that came with the beginning of the Edo period, mostly became ronin (masterless samurai), and a large number of them even started banditry, plundering villages and terrorizing all over Japan.
Your predictions did not come true; kabukimono were not the ancestors of the yakuza
The villagers, who were shaken by the tyranny of the hatamoto-yakkos, began to arm themselves to protect their own cities and became a militant formation, taking the name machi-yakko, meaning “servants of the city”. Unlike the kabukimonos of samurai origin, the machi-yakkos, who fought successfully against the kabukimonos, even though they consisted of simple villagers such as farmers, blacksmiths, tradesmen, and even the homeless, began to be seen as folk heroes after a while. The machi-yakko, who ended the kabukimono existence in the countryside, eventually succumbed to the drunkenness of power and became an alternative to them. In order to avoid sharing the same fate with the hatamoto-yakkos, they were hanging out among themselves, only teasing each other, instead of snuggling with the normal public. (Even today, yakuza organizations rarely infect civilians.)
Towards the middle of the Edo period they split into two sub-branches
the “tekiya” group, which provides security for shops and street stalls in return for a regular fee, and the “bakuto” group, which is below even merchants in the caste system and engages in illegal gambling. The shogunate gave the right to carry katana and wakizashi to tekiya groups, which ensured the safety of the people without creating an economic burden for themselves. (There was a ban on swords in the Edo period.) He also gave the surname to the leaders of these groups, called “oyabun”. On the other hand, bakuto groups that were engaged in illegal activities, especially gambling in haunted places, were not tolerated among the honest people. The word “yakuza” comes from the name of the losing hand in the card game called oicho-kabu played by the bakuto.