The Name Of Japanese Crime Syndicates, the Yakuza, is derived from?
Answer: A Card Game
In Japan, the term “yakuza” literally means “gangster” but serves as an umbrella term that encompasses the roughly 100,000 criminals operating across multiple different criminal gangs in the country and internationally.
The Yakuza emerged during the mid-Edo Period of Japanese history (1603-1868) from two prior groups: the tekiya (who specialized mostly in selling stolen goods) and the bakuto (who focused on gambling). With the long history of Yakuza involvement in gambling, it’s no surprise that the term itself is derived from a card game.
In the traditional and popular Japanese card game Oicho-Kabu (similar to the game Baccarat), the goal is to reach a hand with a value of nine. The worst hand you can get in the game is an eight, a nine, and a three, and is phonetically expressed as “ya-ku-za”. This is the origin of the term for gangster and, in turn, the organizations of gangsters across Japan that bear the same name.
Image courtesy of Japanexperterna.