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organizations of artisans and merchants in medieval Japan, similar to medieval European guilds. They existed mainly from the 12th century to the 16th. They paid tribute to their feudal lords for protection and for the maintainance of their monopoly rights to produce and sell goods in a particular region. At the end of the 16th century Nobunaga Oda and Hideyoshi Toyotomi abolished many of the ia. Between the 17th and 19th centuries they were for the most part replaced by other monopoly organizations, such as the nakama and kabunakama.