Why is the Japanese mafia called the Yakuza?

| Linda Brown | Word & Idioms

---ADVERTISEMENT---

The Japanese mafia’s name, the Yakuza, is a corruption of the pronunciation of the numbers ‘8,9,3’ (‘yattsu, ku, san’) in Japanese. 

It originates from a card game called Oichokabu, in which a player’s score is decided by adding the scores of the cards and using only the smallest digit. 

Namely, 8+9 +3=20=0 points. Thus, ‘8-9-3’ or ‘yattsu, ku, san’ – that is to say Yakuza – means ‘no points’.

Soon enough it became synonymous with ‘useless’, and later to useless people or gambling people. Sure enough, to this day the Yakuza is heavily involved in gambling.

---ADVERTISEMENT---

Logo

And for those of you who Yakuza enthusiastic, here’s some more:

Yakuza (in Japanese: ヤ ク ザ or や く ざ), or Gokodo (極 道), with a number associated with them (893), is Japan’s traditional crime organization.

The Japanese police and the media, under the direction of the police, call the members of the organization Buriokodan (暴力 団; violent group), and the members call themselves Ninkyo Dantai (仁 侠 団 体; Knights Organization).

The yakuza are notorious for their codes of conduct and organization. According to police estimates, the Yakuza has over 100,000 members.

Although the sources of the yakuza are unclear, the modern sources of yakuza can be found in the middle of the Edo period and are divided into two: tkaya (的 屋), people who traded in forbidden, stolen or questionable goods; And in Bakutu (博 徒), those who were gambling.

The Takiya were of the lowest social classes in Edo. Gradually they began to play administrative roles in the trade, such as allocating space for booths and protecting business operations. 

 During the Shinto festivals, the Takiyas set up booths around the temples, demanding rent and security fees.

The spread of the phenomenon eventually led the government to recognize these organizations, gave them heads and permitted to carry a wakizashi – a short samurai sword (the right to carry katana remains exclusive to the samurai and nobility status).

The Bakutu were of even inferior social status since gambling was illegal in Japan. Many gambling houses have been erected in abandoned temples on the outskirts of cities and villages throughout the state. 

 In addition to gambling, the Bakutu also engaged in a shark loan and held its own security forces.

Signs of the origins of the Yakuza can now be found in their initiation ceremonies, incorporating ritual elements of the Takkya and the Bakutu.

Although over the years the yakuza scope of operation has diverse, it is still possible to identify its roots; For example, a group of gambling yakuza might call itself a Bakutu.

And for those of you who Yakuza enthusiastic, here’s some more:

Yakuza (in Japanese: ヤ ク ザ or や く ざ), or Gokodo (極 道), with a number associated with them (893), is Japan’s traditional crime organization.

The Japanese police and the media, under the direction of the police, call the members of the organization Buriokodan (暴力 団; violent group), and the members call themselves Ninkyo Dantai (仁 侠 団 体; Knights Organization).

The yakuza are notorious for their codes of conduct and organization. According to police estimates, the Yakuza has over 100,000 members.

Although the sources of the yakuza are unclear, the modern sources of yakuza can be found in the middle of the Edo period and are divided into two: tkaya (的 屋), people who traded in forbidden, stolen or questionable goods; And in Bakutu (博 徒), those who were gambling.

The Takiya were of the lowest social classes in Edo. Gradually they began to play administrative roles in the trade, such as allocating space for booths and protecting business operations. 

 During the Shinto festivals, the Takiyas set up booths around the temples, demanding rent and security fees.

The spread of the phenomenon eventually led the government to recognize these organizations, gave them heads and permitted to carry a wakizashi – a short samurai sword (the right to carry katana remains exclusive to the samurai and nobility status).

The Bakutu were of even inferior social status since gambling was illegal in Japan. Many gambling houses have been erected in abandoned temples on the outskirts of cities and villages throughout the state. 

 In addition to gambling, the Bakutu also engaged in a shark loan and held its own security forces.

Signs of the origins of the Yakuza can now be found in their initiation ceremonies, incorporating ritual elements of the Takkya and the Bakutu.

Although over the years the yakuza scope of operation has diverse, it is still possible to identify its roots; For example, a group of gambling yakuza might call itself a Bakutu.