Tanomoshi ko

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  • Japanese: 頼母子講 (tanomoshi kou)

Tanomoshi kô were mutual/collective financing associations, in which members of the group - typically neighbors within a village, or members otherwise of a small community - collected up money from all the members, and gave the total to a single member, whether by lottery or by some other system, allowing individuals, with the support of their fellows, to amass enough money to pay off debts, open a business, fund weddings or funerals, or the like. The practice, originating in the medieval period, extended all the way into the 20th century, playing a prominent role in helping finance individuals' overseas emigration (e.g. to Hawaii), and entrepreneurial and other activities within those diasporic communities.[1]

Though originally largely a system for mutual assistance, deployed to help the poorest members of the community when they encountered some crisis, in many areas the tanomoshi kô developed during the Edo period into groups which could help a relatively financially stable individual or family with large purchases, whether in entering into a new entrepreneurial venture, or in simply maintaining or expanding one's regular work, e.g. repairing or purchasing new fishing boats or nets.

Over the course of the period, a variety of other types of credit organizations arose, each differing somewhat as to how people contributed to the pot of money, and how it was distributed. Torinoke associations did not require people to continue paying into the group after it came their turn to receive funds out of the pot; tomi kuchi associations more closely resembled a true lottery system, in which thousands of tickets were sold and only a very few received any pay-out.


  • Arne Kalland, Fishing Villages in Tokugawa Japan, University of Hawaii Press (1995), 279-280.
  1. Franklin Odo and Kazuko Sinoto, A Pictorial History of the Japanese in Hawaii 1885-1924, Bishop Museum (1985), 155-158. Okinawans in Hawaii employed the same system.