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Kabukimono (傾奇者 (カブキもの)) or hatamoto yakko (旗本奴) were gangs of samurai in feudal Japan. They appeared between the end of the Muromachi period (AD 1573) and the beginning of the Edo period (AD 1603), as the turbulent Sengoku period drew to a close. The term Kabukimono is often translated into English as "strange things" or "the crazy ones", believed to be derived from kabuku, meaning "to slant" or "to deviate". They were either rōnin, wandering samurai, or men who had once worked for samurai families who, during times of peace, formed street gangs. Some, however, were also members of more prominent clans—most notably, Oda Nobunaga and Maeda Toshiie.
Kabukimono would often dress in flamboyant clothing, combining colors such as yellow and blue, and often accessorized by wearing short kimonos with lead weights in the hem, velvet lapels, wide obi, elements of European clothing or even clothes meant for women. Kabukimono also often had uncommon hairstyles and facial hair, either styled up in various fashions, or left to grow long. Their katana would often have fancy hilts, large or square tsuba, red scabbards and were usually longer than normal length. Some kabukimono even used extremely long kiseru as weapons.
Kabukimono were known for their violent and shameful behavior, such as not paying at restaurants or robbing townsfolk. Cases of the gang members cutting people down simply to test a new sword (tsujigiri), or larger-scale violent incidents were common in areas where kabukimono could be found (particularly in large cities such as Edo and Kyoto). Wrestling, loud singing and dancing in the streets were also common, as was fighting between gangs after dark. The peak of kabukimono activity was during the Keichō period (1596–1615), although also during that time, the bakufu (shogunate) became more strict, and the kabukimono faded away.
It is also said that Izumo no Okuni borrowed heavily from the style and the personality of the kabukimono when she first started performing in Kyoto, which eventually led to the creation of the classical Kabuki theatrical form. Just like the kabukimono often wore female clothes, Okuni often disguised herself as a male and went out carrying weapons.
It is thought that the modern yakuza originated from either groups of kabukimono or bands of villagers gathered to fight their abusers; though other scholars believe that the yakuza origins are to be found in the machi yakko (町奴), a form of private police.
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