Yashi  香具師 hawker/performers

身分 Status/rank

Yashi were hawker-performers. Their performances advertised medicines, available more cheaply than from doctors and pharmacies. They performed in temple and shrine grounds, or on the streets, targetting the ill and suffering. By the Edo period they were mostly known for pulling teeth and dentrifice products.


They claimed to have origins dating back to Chinese pre-history (before 13thc BC) to the Chinese emperor god Shennong (Shinno in Japanese) who pioneered the use of herbal drugs.

Masterless warrior Nagano Rokuro Takatomo in the 12th century AD and his disciples worked as incense utensil merchants (the origin of the characters used for yashi 香具師 – can also be read as Ko (incense) gu (utensil) shi (specialist/master)

In the 18th century, they became more recognised and registered as an association

19th century – probably divided up into loosely affiliated groups overseen by various godfathers and their lieutenants. The Tokugawa regime tried to superintend their activities more closely by the 1860s and passed a law charging yashi leaders with exposing criminal underlings


Sword unsheathing, ball juggling, top spinning, tumbling/acrobatics

Top spinning

Yashi who came to Britain

Matsui Gensui