Tekiya are merchants who sell items such as food or toys on the street or stalls set up in the ground of shrines or temples, on the approach to them or in temple towns during festivals, markets, and fairs. It also refers to stallholders who provide gambling activities such as shooting or a lottery as game. Also, it refers to peddlers who use performances to attract customers, then selling goods or charging for the street performance itself.
As they worshipped 'Shinno no kami' (Shennong God) which was originally introduced as the god of business from Chinese Civilization to be a Shinto deity, and often used own code words, tekiya are called Shinno within certain circles.
They are also known as matoya, yashi, and sanzun. Although even most Japanese may be unfamiliar with these terms, until recently they were often used as synonyms and dictionaries used the same definitions for tekiya, yashi, and sanzun.
Relationship with Festivals, Shrines and Temples
The ground of shrines or temples, on the approach to them or in temple towns during festivals, markets, and fairs' mentioned above are known as niwaba (literally meaning 'yard' and described 'niwaba' hereinafter). Tekiya are merchants who sell blessed items or lucky charms at niwaba. Although they are referred to as merchants, they are similar to the cooperatives formed for ceremonial occasions such as scaffolding men or carpenters, and are part of the mutual assistance known as jisha fushin (to making efforts for the construction of temples and shrines), were not paid but rather given money as a gift. At the same time, through their dealings with temples and shrines, they were considered to be yorishiro (objects representative of a divine spirit) when selling lucky charms.
Tekiya are a type of 'stallholder and peddler' and are a part of an area's traditional culture. However, in addition to selling goods for what they are worth, a major characteristic of tekiya is that they have the added value of providing part of the specialness (the 'hare' [extraordinary] and 'ke' [ordinary]) of festivals.
Tekiya differ from current street performers, who are amateurs or without any cultural aspect. Their street performance to attract customers should be distinguished from other performers (buskers singing enka [a genre of Japanese pop music] and political activist). The difference depends on whether the watchers feel the special atmosphere of the festival, which is a place of hare and ke, or not.
Japan, since ancient times, has groups called 'kumi' that offer employment or apprenticeships in various fields and, simply put, tekiya are businesses and mutual aid societies (as well as the people who found them) based on the traditional Japanese mentor-apprentice system (also referred as the relationship of Oyabun-kobun, Oyakata kokata [father-son], Kyodaibun [brother-brother], kyodai deshi [fellow pupil]). The image of tekiya is of retailers with little capital or of the working class groups hired by them but, in fact, many tekiya are community based, privately managed or run as a secondary business. It is hard to define simply tekiya as a whole due the complex relationship between geography, history, people, and finance, but the origins of tekiya can be found in the following five categories.
Sarugaku (form of theatre popular in Japan during the 11th to 14th centuries)
Street performers who traveled around performing juggleries, magic shows, acrobatics, prayers, and fortune telling. Like the yashi (a street stall vendor at shrines and temples) sold medicine derived from Chinese medicine, many sarugaku performances also had their beginnings in Chinese culture but many, such as the sword dance or solo sumo, were derived from Japanese performances that had existed from ancient times.
The Lotus Leaf Trade (Dealing with Seasonal Items)
This term was used to refer the selling of lucky charms required for times or annual events, what is called, seasonal items or items that would only be used once such as nuts, berries, vegetables, fish (and, depending on the district, meat, which was normally banned) at markets or festivals.
In the suburbs, the lotus leaf trade continues as it is, with local people having sold seasonal items as lucky charms for generations at festivals and so on. More specifically, farmers make and sell good luck candies and sticky rice cakes during festivals, markets, and fairs, having passed down the business over several generations.
Yashi are people who attract customers with performances or shows and who make medicines and incense, as well as providing dental services.
It was written 香具師 (literally, perfume practitioner) with Chinese characters and also 野士 (mountain priest), 野師 (wild practitioner), 弥四 (part of man's name 'Yashiro'), however all of them are pronounced as 'yashi.'
There are several theories concerning the origins of yashi, including that they were mountain priest who switched to selling medicines to avoid poverty, or that they were named after a medicine seller called Yashiro.
Scaffolders and Gardeners
In the urban site, with the policy of tenka fushin (nation wide constructions carried out by Tokugawa shogunate), people connected to construction, such as scaffolders and gardeners, were given special duties and rights (such as acting as firefighters) in the town's correlation and tended to monopolize the market for special good luck charms (rakes or morning glories) or items that would definitely sell (for example, New Year decorations); this unwritten law continues even today.
These were games where people shot arrows at targets, and from the Edo Period (1603-1868) also include shooting at a rotating target with 'blow guns' and a kind of roulette called 'bunmawashi.'
It also refers to the people who made a living from the bets (gambling for gifts) from these games.
Social and Cultural Perceptions
Intellectuals such as Shoichi OZAWA have described the selling cries of tekiya as "a signature of the Showa Period" and wrote about them in his books and sound source.
It was the occupation of the 'wandering tora,' Torajiro KURUMA, the main character of the 'Otoko wa Tsurai yo' (It is Tough Being a Man) films.
The signs of temples or shrines' was basically jisha fushin and still exists today, but in pre-Meiji Period society (1868 - 1912) local government was fairly autonomous, revolving around temples and shrines and since regular repairs, improving infrastructure and planning renovations needed large amounts of money, the funds were raised not through donations, but by holding festivals, inviting tekiya and getting the locals to participate to create an atmosphere of extraordinary (hare) and making tekiya contribute part of their profit as rent. This is part of the reason that as merchants with skills, tekiya were able to make a living from festivals which, with their special atmosphere of night stalls and shops, were enjoyed by the common people and enriched their culture of festival. The 'tomikuji,' which was the origin of the modern lottery and established to collect funds needed for building temples, was also produced special atmosphere.
The transformation of 'kaijitsu' (gatherings) into fairs, becoming an integral part of people's lifestyle, together with the growth of local economies and the emergence of markets, prompted the growth of stalls centered around tekiya. While kaijitsu are considered to be the origin, the goods sold also reflected values such as omens, rituals, exorcism, and fortune telling. The festival culture prospered even more during the Edo Period and continued until the early Showa Period (1926 - 1989); there were more than 600 fairs held annually in Tokyo Prefecture before World War II, with two or three held everyday except unlucky days. However, fairs and festivals vanished in the impoverished post-war period. Many festivals have been reestablished by local residents, but most fairs are run by tekiya who, through leaving the business and changing jobs, as well as being seen as somewhat anachronistic, are steadily decreasing in number. It cannot be denied that the decrease of the tekiya profession greatly contributed to the decrease in the number of fairs in local areas of Japan.
The shooting galleries found in today's hot spring and inn towns, as well as 'smartball' and 'pachinko' (both forms of pinball), originated in the 'gambling shooting ranges' run by 'matoya' (shooting shop), with customers winning prizes rather than money. In compliance with the law, the gambling is for prizes rather than money and, since 'yugi' (the games) are based on archery, which is a skill, they are written with the characters for 'play' and 'skill' rather than the usual 'play' and 'fun' and classified differently from the 'tomikuji,' which is a lottery based on pure chance. In addition, matoya and the shooting galleries in inn towns have a cultural and historical background, whereas modern day pachinko is just a businesses operated for profit.
Tekiya are occasionally still called yashi even now. According to one theory, the characters used for this term (which, although pronounced "yashi", is written "kagushi") developed from Kagutsuchi (Honokagutsuchi no kami), the god of fire who appears in the "Kojiki" (The Records of Ancient Matters), and who kills his mother, Izanami, by burning her vagina as he was being born before being chopped to pieces by his father, Izanagi, the many pieces turning into gods.
The deity Shinno, considered an alias of tekiya, was the god of farming and medicine, and in the Edo Period, yashi, who are considered to be the origin of tekiya, worshipped Shinno and acted as dentists by selling medicine, inserting, maintaining, and selling false teeth and providing treatment for cavities. Shinno was originally from Chinese Civilization and was the god of Chinese medicine, from which many historical traditional medicines were derived in Japan. This is one of the main reasons why tekiya, as well as being considered to be connected to yashi, do not follow traditional Japanese deities of medicine.
This was an ancient form of theater that began in the Heian Period (794 to 1185). It consisted of impersonations and other comedy routines, sword dancing, and dancing in one man sumo, as well as Tang's magic shows, acrobatics and stunts performed at honozumo (ritual sumo matches held at a shrine) and kagura (Shinto music and dance) festivals held at night. Sarugaku was performed by professional entertainers who belonged to temples and shrines and performed at shines and temples or on main streets during kaijitsu (the original form of fairs). In addition, those who were under the patronage of kuge (court nobles) or samurai families developed into Noh (traditional Japanese masked dance-drama) and Kyogen (farce played during a Noh play cycle), and sarugaku became the generic term for noh and kyogen. Nowadays, the vestiges of sarugaku (such as the sword twirling 'gama no abura uri' [toad-oil sellers] or 'nankin tama sudare', where the performer makes fancy shapes with a small bamboo screen) can be only be seen amongst a few family-run tekiya, but they are widely known from the 'daikagura' (lion dances, juggling and other entertainment) performed at yose (storyteller theaters) and entertainment halls by 'Somenosuke and Sometaro'.
The Lotus Leaf Trade and Fraudsters
The Lotus Leaf Trade were businesses that were asked by shrines and temples to sell holy good luck charms, rather than merchandise, receiving in return gifts of gratitude, and as such were indispensible for festivals. Though it is no different from selling ordinary charms, the fact that they are holy charms means they are worth more than their actual value. As a result, they were looked down upon by some as merchants who schemed to sell inferior products for more than they were worth. The origins of tekiya, who are known for selling cheap and fake items, are believed lie in Lotus Leaf traders and Ikasamashi (fraudsters), since they share etymology and background (both the Trade of Lotus Leaves and Ikasamashi mean people who sell fake or cheap objects). The Japanese word 'ikasamashi' comes from 'ikasama,' a synonym for the magic shows performed in sarugaku, many of which originated in Tang. Tekiya also used magic shows until the early Showa Period and many used tricks such as the 'cutting the arm with a sword' seen in the 'gama no abura uri' performance to bring in customers.
In the Heian Period, the kuge used to participate in an archery game called yokyu. It was done while remaining seated, and participants competed for the points gained by hitting a target. Later in the Edo Period, yokyu combined with the common 'festival bows and arrows' ritual to became a gambling game called 'matoya' (written with the characters for 'target' and 'arrow') run by people who were also called 'matoya' (written with the characters for 'target' and 'monger') and which prospered from the late Edo Period through the Taisho Period (1912 - 1926), although it was occasionally banned as it was considered to be undesirable gambling and to corrupt public morals. This is considered to be one of the origins of the later tekiya, who make a living by running outdoor stalls.
Matoya' was known as 'yokyu-jo' (yokyu place) in the Kansai region of western Japan and 'yaba' (arrow place) in the eastern Kanto region and during festivals, stalls were set up in niwaba and in red light districts (or licensed quarters), with prizes or money awarded depending on the position or the type of the target.
Since it was dangerous to gather arrows from the side while customers were shooting, Kanto tekiya started calling any dangerous place 'yaba' and dangerous activities 'yabai.'
This 'yabai' code spread from tekiya to other disreputable groups, and became popular among young people around 1965.
Tekiya and Prostitutes
Studies of folklore and discussions of folk religion often contend that the licensed quarters 'had the meaning of a barrier' and since their political stability meant they were easy to control, they were said to identify an area, although they were considered to have some extraterritorial rights, not in the common 'rules.'
In addition, licensed quarters and prostitutes were originally related to Shinto purification and exorcism rites, as can be discerned from the existence of 'watari miko' (shrine maidens who were also prostitutes and who traveled around performing purification rites at festivals). As a result, licensed quarters carried the same meaning as the niwaba (places connected to temples, shrines and good omens) and was a place where tekiya plied their trade. In addition, many of the professions that tekiya developed from were associated with prostitutes.
On pilgrimages such as the Okage Mairi (to Ise-jingu Shrine) and Fuji Mode (to Sengen Shrine at the summit of Mount Fuji), the road traveled was also considered to be part of the pilgrimage, as such inn towns contained prostitutes (serving ladies) whose entertaining of the guests was a form of purification and exorcism. The manners and morals of these inn towns came to be connected with matoba areas (gambling for gifts) run by matoya, and yaba (shooting galleries) were established in inn towns and hot spring districts.
This was the original form of current shooting galleries (including games such as 'smart ball'), which until the 1950s coexisted with prostitutes, who were known in slang as 'women of the yaba.'
Kugutsume (Female Puppeteers)
In the Heian Period, there were groups of entertainers called Kugutsushi (puppeteers), who are considered to be the one of the origins of sarugaku and who wandered from place to place, gaining money by performing in cities though some groups later came under 'the patronage' of temples and shrines. Men performed sword dancing and women did puppet shows to music called Kugutsu mawashi. The women puppeteers, known as kugutsume, it is said that they sometimes slept with customers.
Lotus Leaf Women
As described in the works of the mid-Edo Period writer Saikaku IHARA, these were prostitutes hired by big shops in and around Kyoto to sleep with honored or regular customers. The term Lotus Leaf Women is related to the Lotus Leaf Trade etymologically, and though it is just an assumption, there is a suggestion Lotus Leaf traders may have also have worked as prostitutes.
Yatori Onna (arrow collectors)
These were women who, in the late Edo-Period, worked in the yaba owned by matoya, picking up arrows shot by customers from the ground and running through the flying arrows which was considered as a kind of show. On special days, the top prize was a night with the yatori onna of one's choice, if certain requirements were met.
This was a trade term described a style of sale by tekiya, but dictionaries define it as 'street prostitutes.'
Both required straw floor mats as important business tools, and it was a general term used to describe businesses where goods were sold from straw mats on the floor, rather than an actual stall, although is not certain whether 'korobi' (falling) was a pun or just happened to be called, or referred to businesses actually collapsing.
Classification by size
This term was used because the goods were sold on such as straw mats on the ground. They were known for selling original and novelty goods.
Due to the ease with which goods could be laid out, korobi have in recent times, regardless of the niwaba, set up other places when elementary school finishes, selling goods aimed at children, many of whom, depending on the period, bought things such as disappearing colored-ink sets, colored-sand picture sets (colored silica sand and glue), mold for colored clays (known as kataya) from 'korobi.'
Although there are many theories as to the origin of this term, it is believed to refer to the fact that the counter is one shaku three sun (in Japanese, isshaku sanzun), or about 39.4cm, high. Other theories are that some tekiya traveled around as toseinin (yakuza-like gamblers) who, unlike yakuza, when paying their respects for the local boss, used to open their speeches with the phrase 'if I may borrow three sun (around 9 cm) of your roof...' and who conducted business with flattery (known in Japanese as 'three sun of tongue') and determination ('three sun of heart') or that their stalls were made from the smallest pieces of wood available, which was three sun square.
They, so-called rotensho (stallholder), traveled to locations near and far in search of fairs, markets, and festivals, selling their goods from portable stalls known as tokomise, and while some were individually or privately run, most were members of the Shinno Commercial Cooperative Association. The Shinno Commercial Cooperative Association and so on, organized around the boss who manage the traveling tekiya, set the niwaba and rents, and collect the rents, is located in various places around Japan and acts as a mutual assistance and communication network for stallholders.
Takamono (literally 'high thing') are so called because, in contrast with korobi or sanzun selling on the ground, they were big makeshift buildings (theaters) with stages and floors. They showed acts by acrobats and magicians, as well as other entertainment such as haunted houses, and most takamono were affiliated with the National Temporary Entertainment Association. Circuses were also at one stage affiliated with the National Temporary Entertainment Association since they were operated by its members, who had adopted them from abroad. The times and entertainments offered may have changed, but there are still many companies in the entertainment industry whose names end in 'Kogyobu' and whose roots lie in takamono. The performers were known as 'hippari' (pullers) in the secret language of the tekiya.
Classification by business methods and goods sold
Ojime (literally 'large occupancy')
The attracting of customers through the use of certain magic tricks or a style of banter known as tanka (literally 'caustic words'); also includes tankabai (selling by tanka). Since many people gather to watch the shows, they are often held in large spaces away from the main areas (good locations also require high rental fees so are often avoided) and are so called because they occupy a lot of space. The term also includes 'gama no abura uri,' 'nankin tama sudare', and 'banana no tatakiuri' (a seller who sells bananas at a greatly reduced price with a showy performance).
Komise (Small Stalls)
As the name implies, these are small stalls that sell candy and other small items (collectively known as 'komamono,' or 'tiny things; the opposite is 'aramono'). They were originally stalls run by common people such as Lotus Leaf traders and botefuri (peddlers who carried wares hanging from a pole) during markets and fairs. They are traditional tekiya with strong connections to local areas having some acquired rights and are usually given priority over other tekiya.
As the name implies, these are tekiya that sell plants and remains a side business of many gardeners even to this day. Scaffolders and gardeners still have vested rights in local Tori no Ichi (open-air markets), Asagao Ichi (Morning-glory fairs), and Hagoita Ichi (battledore fairs), as well as in the selling of decorations for New Year and bamboo for Tanabata festival.
Structure and form based on business areas
Until recently, the 'Shinno Association' and 'Stall Holders Union' provided mutual aid for itinerant tekiya. These organizations formed from the idea of sharing and helping people who face hardship during travels.
Usually, several shops form a group and travel around local fairs but, in old towns in urban areas, some groups do business at the festivals which held in the main towns at the fair dividing on days which there is a one and six, two and eight, three and seven, and five and ten (four and nine are considered unlucky so even tekiya close on those days), and some only travel to irregular, limited-period fairs other than annual events, such as summer festivals, New Years or cherry blossom viewing festivals. In addition, many groups of tekiya do not travel far in order to reduce transportation and lodging costs.
Markets, new businesses
While the number of people attending festivals and fairs is decreasing, the number of events such as flea markets, run by various organizations and held in municipally managed parks and recreation halls, is on the rise. As a result, the number of people who do not own local shops, but run stalls as a hobby, a sideline or a business is increasing.
As time has passed, the number of people with the skill to bring out the special traditional atmosphere (hare) of tekiya has decreased, leading some people to yearn for them. In contrast, there are flea markets, such as the 'handmade' markets held on Sundays across Japan, that local people joined and are run by local municipalities or businesses, though these are unlike the traditional festivals by common people organized by temples and shrines and run by professional tekiya.
It has been pointed out that such markets do not have traditional or cultural associations and there is a fear that 'markets could take over and festivals will face extinction.'
Only time will tell if tekiya exist solely because of 'festivals' or if they will lose their culture and traditional backgrounds by adapting to these new markets.
The following criteria sometimes overlap with each other. Please refer to fairs for other stalls.
Selling of Food and Toys
Banana no Tatakiuri
The selling of bananas by beating the boards of stalls while delivering a unique sales pitch.
A snack formed by heating a mixture of granulated and crystal sugar to a very high temperature and forming it into cotton-like fibers.
Candy coated apples. These days, small apples are also used.
Tenshin amaguri (Tianjin sweet roasted chestnuts)
These are Chinese chestnuts, traditionally imported via Tianjin harbor, mixed with sugar and roasted together with small stones. Occasionally, chestnuts from Japan are used. As a result, the size of the chestnuts varies greatly.
Although the name implies small castella (a kind of sponge cake), they are actually more reminiscent of pancakes. It is made on hot plates for cooking takoyaki (octopus balls). They are sometimes sold under the names Tokyo cake, Chinchin yaki, or Pinsu yaki. Their unique texture has made them extremely popular.
Plastic masks of popular characters from anime, video games, and special effect films, and so on, are sold.
Kataya (sellers of clay molds, typically in the shape of popular characters, clay to fill them and paints used by children to color them)
Please refer to Kataya for more details.
There are also stalls that sell food and festival goods such as lottery tickets, ginko nuts and sweet acorns, which were originally sold as seasonal good luck charms (what was traditionally called the Lotus Leaf Trade) and are often found at fairs. Please refer to the Trade of Lotus Leaves for details of other items sold.
Sale of plants and animals
Kingyo Sukui (goldfish scooping)
The scooping up of small goldfish. The fish are usually those weeded out by breeders of expensive goldfish and, as such, usually die after one night but can grow to a good size when well looked after. Goldfish were originally brought to Japan from China as good luck charms.
In most cases, this was a means to get rid of male chicks, which have a low commercial value for poultry farms. They were sprayed with colored ink and sold as 'Colored Chicks;' occasionally quail chicks were also sold. The appeal of these animals meant that they were a common sight, although they are not often seen these days. They can routinely be found at stalls in the Philippines, although they became a social problem due to people not being able to raise them or getting complaints from neighbors.
Umi hozuki (a kind of sea nail), winter cherries, morning glories, or small potted plants that are considered to be good luck plants.
These are insects that are favored by adults for their sounds, liked by children, or are comparatively rare, such as suzumushi (bell crickets), long-horned grasshoppers (or Japanese katydids), Japanese rhinoceros beetles, stag beetles, mizukamakiri (Chinese water scorpions), and tagame (giant water bugs).
Providing Games and Lotteries
Katanuki (shape cutting)
Mint-flavored sugar-based placoid snacks with a picture of an animal or a character printed on them, which people buy and then cut out the picture. The stalls give out money if one is able to neatly cut out the drawing. More complex drawings pay put more money. In some areas, they are called 'Namenuki' (Lick and cut out).
A shooting game that uses corks as bullets to shoot at targets or prizes. Though not so common nowadays, they also used to use bows and arrows or blow guns. Recently, some stalls hang the prizes on thin strips of paper and customers use water guns to soak the paper and make the prizes drop.
Small animals, insects, fresh water fish (eels or crucian carp) are raced along a straight course with bets placed on which will win, though customers gathered not because they were interested in the race but because the animals themselves were interesting or funny.
Customers drew a raffle ticket and received a toy gun with the same number. There are stalls nowadays where customers can exchange an item already received plus the price of another ticket for a higher quality prize.
Sen bon nuki (One Thousand Strings Lottery)
This is a raffle where the prizes are attached to strings which are then bundled together so that the customer does not know what prize they will win when they pull the string.
This is a simple game where prizes are given numbers, the numbers are placed in envelopes and the customer chooses an envelope.
They used to use tame Japanese sparrows and common finches to select the envelope, which usually contained a 'fortune slip' instead of a raffle ticket
It is said that there are only a few people in Japan that use birds for this kind of fortune telling. It is common to see fortune telling using Japanese sparrows in night stalls in Taiwan even now, but it is unclear whether was imported from Japan when Taiwan was a Japanese colony or whether it was originally Taiwanese.
This is a handmade game where customers try to get a ball in goals labeled first prize, second prize, third prize or a booby prize; it was the foundation of pachinko and smart ball, and nowadays often uses old pachinko machines.
Mizubon Biki (washbowl lottery)
A raffle where a loach or diving beetle is placed in a circular metal basin that is marked with different colored areas labeled win and lose.
Tekiya and Organized Crime (yakuza, gangsters, gamblers, sujimono [a kind of gamblers]).
Tekiya were also called Shinno and are known as businessman while gamblers are known toseinin (gamblers). Mushoku tose,' a phrase which means to make a living solely from gambling, originally referred to gamblers with no recognized occupation and did not apply to tekiya.
The area where tekiya operate is called the 'niwaba,' whereas gamblers use the term 'island.'
This derives from the different jurisdictions of the city commissioner and the temple and shrine commissioner in the Edo Period, and the divisions according to occupation can be seen on maps in placenames that have survived from that period. As mentioned above, they had different beliefs, with tekiya worshipping Shinno, and gamblers worshipping Amaterasu Okami as the god of business, whether each believes which religion or not.
For connections with the yakuza and gangsters, please refer to the article of yakuza and gangsters. They were formed along the lines of the traditional Japanese 'kumi' (an organization) and acted as mutual assistance associations. This was not unique to tekiya, with construction associations made up of carpenters, scaffolders, and tsuchikata (also known as doteninsoku, these were groups of civil engineers involved in land reclamation and levee protection projects in the Edo Period), longshoreman associations consisting of river bank and dock workers, ferrymen and so on, and transport associations consisting of messengers, palanquin bearers and packhorse drivers, and so on, all formed along similar lines. However, the system of rewards that existed as part of their mutual assistance activities developed into what is now called 'minji kainyu' (essentially protection rackets) and which is seemed associated with the yakuza. The origins of some of the oldest companies in Japan can be traced back to these occupations.
The Kyokuto-kai, designated crime syndicate, is the biggest tekiya organization in Japan. Other tekiya organizations include Iijima-kai and Anegasaki-kai.
There were cases where, for various reasons, the 'niwanushi' (literally 'head of the niwaba,' they were kind of stewards), who organized and managed the Shinno Association of each district, was unable to ensure smooth operations. Originally, unions of niwanushi, known as Shinno Associations, were formed by groups of mediators who secured spots for and looked after peddlers and travelers, but these days, most are affiliated with criminal gangs, with some 'niwanushi' completely ignoring the 'taking care of' part, which was originally the most important, and while claiming to be the 'n-th niwanushi of such-and-such society' or from 'a branch of so-and-so kumi' or 'the such-and-such family of so-and-so society,' they threaten and exclude rivals and demand gifts and money in the name of chakuto (gifts for caretakers of the area when merchants arrived, in a sign of greeting) from newly-arrived merchants seeking their services.
These days some organizations in certain areas operate as cooperatives licensed by the prefecture. Even in this case, the director of the cooperative is usually also a gang boss or the president of some society, meaning that rather than associations for cooperation, they are associations for the boss's benefit. In extreme cases, the director is a dummy.