Decchi (apprentice) (丁稚)
Decchi is a system of training future shopkeepers which was common from the Edo period to the end of the Second World War. This is also a dialect of Kamigata (Kansai region) meaning those who have just started training under the system. This is a form of apprenticeship. Even now, rank-and-file employees occasionally speak metaphorically, 'I am still a decchi' in self-deprecation. The kamigata dialect, decchi is 'kozo' (a trainee priest) in Edo (kanto region) dialect.
Road to becoming a master
At the age of around ten, boys started living on the premises and doing errands and miscellaneous affairs. There was a pecking order among decchi according to their years of service.
(Decchi was called 'xx matsu', and xx often stood for a character adopted from his real name.)
Decchi covered a wide range of work including a lot of physical labor such as carrying things from and to a warehouse other than the work mentioned above. Under the live-in system, the ABC's of shopkeeping, such as etiquette and formality, were thoroughly hammered in by banto (a head clerk) and tedai (a clerk).
Their main job was to stand in front of a shop and call out for prospective customers or to do physical labor, and they never dealt with goods
They were called 'decchi-don' or names like 'kozo', and 'bozu' by customers and clerks of other shops.
They later became tedai at the discretion of the master ('dan-san' in Senba dialect). Tedai, as the name suggests, worked devotedly for their master and banto.
(They were called 'xx kichi' or 'xx shichi', which were the same as lower banto.)
They were appointed as banto (subdivided into 'ko-banto', 'chu-banto', and 'o-banto' and are called 'xx suke'), and at the age of around 30 when judged sufficiently skilled enough, they were given permission of sharing the goodwill to use the shop's symbol printed on a noren cloth to hang over the entry of a branch shop of their own (Noren-wake). But they needed to win the struggle for survival to reach the status. In the Edo period, only one in every 300 decchi in the Mitsui family could get to the level of sharing the goodwill.
There was no salary paid, and only food, clothing, and shelter were secured. Twice a year, at obon and the end of the year, allowances, presents for their families when they returned to their homes, and new clothing (oshikise, or clothes provided by an employee) were given at times. It was a matter of course for shopkeepers that decchi worked with no pay because shopkeepers provided decchi with training for business and food. It was also beneficial for those becoming decchi because they could get the experience of the business and the opportunity to set up business of their own in the future, and for those who become decchi from a poor family, the status had an advantage of being able to eat at least. The remuneration system was often called 'decchi boko' (kozo-boko in Edo dialect).
Disappearance of decchi system
After the Second World War, labor laws were drafted and the period of compulsory education was extended to nine years under the order from the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers. As a result, it became difficult to maintain the form of decchi-boko comprising 'long-term live-in work with housing, food, and clothing virtually with no pay'. Companies which had employed decchi apprentices changed them into employees. The decchi system with more than 200 years of history disappeared due to the change. This took the same line as shops which used to be family businesses turning into modern companies.
After that, decchi is only known through classic Rakugo (classical comic story-telling) and works of Kobako HANATO or comedies of Yoshimoto Shin Kigeki (Yoshimoto New Comedy Troupe) (such as 'Acchi Kocchi Decchi' [Decchi here and there]) in a parody of them. Banto and Decchi', which was televised in the early stage of TV broadcasting, became popular and the term, decchi became known nationwide as such a servant when the decchi or kozo system had already disappeared.
In order to revitalize the local area and to deepen the understanding of occupations, organization of shopping streets or other groups organize an event which gives junior and senior high school students an opportunity to experience businesses, and such an event is sometimes called 'experiencing decchi' (in places like Osaka).
A detailed description of decchi is given in a work of Kobako HANATO, 'Akantare'. It is set in a large shop, and the characters are: Yasunosuke as a master, Yasuzo as a young master, Chisaburo as a branch family (such as master's younger brother), Kosuke as obanto (the head clerk), Naosuke as chubanto (a middle clerk), Mameshichi as kobanto (a lower clerk), Sutekichi as tedai, and Hidematsu as decchi. This is just a reference, but as Hanato checked the historical background, things in the play must be correct for the most part.
The term 'Decchiage' has nothing to do with decchi. The term originated in the Han reading 'tetsu' of the Chinese character, 'netsu' (meaning fabrication).
The founder of Panasonic, Konosuke MATSUSHITA served his apprenticeship in present Kadoma City and worked for a bicycle shop and others.