Okappiki refer to unofficial collaborators who played a marginal role in police functions such as town magistrate's offices and Hitsuke tozoku aratame-kata (literally, "investigative division for arson and organized robbery") in the Edo period.
The names "Okappiki" and "Goyokiki" were used in Edo. Okappiki were called "Meakashi" in Kanhasshu (the Eight Provinces of the Kanto region) and "Tesaki" or "Kuchitoi" in the Kansai region, and in this way, the names were different from area to area..
The origin of Okappiki was Homen, who were former petty criminals whose sins had been forgiven and worked as a minion. Okappiki were often prohibited by law in the Edo period, but Samurai did not know much about criminals in towns, so from the need for investigation, relative petty criminals were hired to collect information. Because banishment from a community was a basic punishment in the Edo period, the communities of criminals who had been banished from authorized communities such as towns and villages were built outside of there, so criminal investigations themselves were difficult without hiring people who knew much about the inner societies. Okappiki were often delegated to Kaoyaku (influential man) called "Oyabun" in towns and villages. Many Okappiki had their merry men called "Shitappiki." Many bosses of gangsters and stallkeepers inevitably became Meakashi, which was called "Nisoku no waraji" (to have one's fingers in two pies).
Although period dramas depict as if Okappiki had always carried jitte (short one hook truncheon), in fact, they could not officially carry it, and they lent it only when necessary. They worked under Doshin (a police constable) or Hitsuke tozoku aratame-kata, but they were not paid salaries or appointed by town magistrate's offices. As mentioned above, Okappiki were not formal constituent members of town magistrate's offices. Okappiki are sometimes expressed that they corresponded to current policemen with the rank of constable, but that is therefore not right. It is a good guess that Doshin such as Sanmawari corresponded to current policemen with the rank of constable. However, Doshin received a lot of real income from bribes offered by people living in merchant houses under their jurisdiction, and they got Tefuda (pocket money) from the income. It is said that meals and between-meal snacks were always ready for their men, Okappiki, in Doshin's houses, and Okappiki were able to eat meals there anytime. It is said that there were about 500 people of Okappiki and about 3,000 people including Shitappiki in the whole of the Edo town magistrate's office.
Okappiki are also well known as detectives in detective stories starting with Hanshichi Torimonocho (The Memoirs of Edo Detective, Hanshichi), which are significantly different from their realities. Some students of mystery novels consider Okappiki to be similar to private detectives (e.g. Saitaro FUJIWARA, etc.).
In local areas
Okappiki were unofficial in Edo, but there are some cases that they were authorized by local feudal lords in other areas. For instance, the Moriyama Domain in Oshu (Mutsu Province) officially permitted Meakashi to belt on a sword instead of jitte, and granted them the privilege of Kuiste (leaving a restaurant without paying) as material compensation for necessary expenses. In addition, Meakashi (a.k.a. Michiannai) who worked under the Kanto Torishimari Shutsuyaku (the police network set up by the bakufu [Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun] in 1805 to keep order in eight Kanto provinces except Mito) were appointed by the recommendation of local towns and villages, so they also had a public character.