Bakuto

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Bakuto, traditional gamblers, along with the tekiya, peddlars, are commonly acknowledged as early precursors to the Yakuza in Japan. Beginning in the 1700s and existing until the early 20th century, the bakuto was largely a set of social outcasts who maintained gambling rooms for traditional games like hanafuda and dice.

Often bakuto had criminal records. In Japan during the time of the Tokugawa shogunate, offenders of particular forms of criminal activities would receive punitive tattoos, usually a black ring around the wrist. These rings became the starting point of elaborate tattoos to reclaim the body.

The bakuto can be called responsible for the introduction of finger removal (yubitsume) into yakuza culture as well as the name 'yakuza' itself. The word comes from a hand in hanafuda (flower cards) that was particularly bad for the gambler. The combination 8-9-3, or ya-ku-sa, became popular slang to denote something useless. The term became slang for the bakuto themselves and later the larger criminal organization that sprung up around them.

The term bakuto is still used to denote some of the responsibilities within yakuza organizations, however most gangs are associated in larger syndicates that include tekiya as well as the newer gurentai.

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