Shintaro Hayashi, a prosthetics maker from Japan, is helping out former members of the Yakuza, or Japanese mob, by creating fake fingers they lost during their life of crime, so they can get normal jobs easier.
The Yakuza organized crime syndicates are renowned for their strict codes of conduct and organized nature. When a member causes serious offenses, he is required to perform a ritual known as “yubitsume”, which implies cutting off his own fingers as a form of atonement. Usually, the left pinkie is the first one to go, but repeated mistakes can cause a sloppy Yakuza to lose several digits. It becomes a stigma that signifies current or former membership in the Japanese mafia, and those who manage to leave their troubled past behind and become reformed citizens have a hard time finding jobs because of it. Most Yakuza try to conceal their missing fingers in public by keeping a fist, but there comes a time when they can’t hide their defects anymore, and that’s where prosthetics maker Shintaro Hayashi comes in. For the last 10 years, he has been creating fake fingers to mask Yakuza amputations.
Hayashi doesn’t make the standard small, medium or large prosthetics, but custom fingers molded to fit the wearer perfectly, carefully painted to match the color of their skin. Just one of these silicone replicas is priced at around $3,000 and most of his clients own different sets – a light skinned version for winter, and a tanned look for summer. The more a silicone finger is used, the more often it has to be replaced, but periodic replacements are cheaper because the mold has already been made. Shintaro says this fake pinkie niche makes up about 5% of his whole business, with 20 -30 clients asking for finger replacement every year. For many former Yakuza, his realistic finger prosthesis have been a true blessing, allowing them to land jobs they would have otherwise been denied on account of their past. But not all of his clients are reformed mob members, some don’t have any intention of leaving their crime syndicates, but need to cover up for public events.
According to official reports, the number of Yakuza gang members has been on a steady decline, as a result of Japanese police crackdowns of criminal activity and measures aimed at pressuring legitimate businesses to cut ties with the mob. Some underworld bosses have renounced the centuries-old ritual of yubitsume, fearing it might attract unwanted attention to their operations.