Tekiya

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Tekiya on the grounds of Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto
Tekiya in Maruyama Koen, Kyoto

Tekiya (的屋 or テキ屋 "peddlers") are itinerant Japanese merchants who, along with the bakuto ("gamblers"), historically were predecessors to the modern yakuza.

The tekiya, who first appeared in the early 18th century, would travel around the countryside, setting up portable stalls at markets and festivals. They had a shady reputation, as their goods were typically of low quality and their sales practices were often deceptive and coercive. Many Tekiya came from low castes such as the burakumin.

As the tekiya began to form organized groups, the groundwork for today's Yakuza was laid. The Tekiya lived by strict codes, and their gangs used the oyabun-kobun system of bosses, underbosses and followers. Unlike the bakuto (gambling was and still is illegal in Japan), the Tekiya's line of work was generally above board. But they also engaged in illicit activities such as protection rackets and gang wars. In addition, their itinerant lifestyle often attracted fugitives to join their ranks.

Although the tekiya/bakuto lines have been blurred with the emergence of the modern Japanese Yakuza in the 20th century, many of today's Yakuza still identify with one group over the other.

A loose American equivalent of the tekiya could be seen in carnies.

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