Never did Shintaro Hayashi expect that his small business of making prosthetics would actually lead him to be involved with the Japanese underworld. It is his prosthetic pinkies that actually help some former members of the yakuza, or Japan’s organized crime syndicate, reintegrate themselves into normal society.
Hayashi’s Tokyo-based company, Aiwa Gishi, is used to making silicone body parts for breast cancer survivors and legs and arms for amputees who were involved in serious accidents. But for the past years, he noticed that his clientele was changing and that custom-made prosthetic pinkies were becoming a “hot commodity.”
In Japanese society, those who have stunted pinkies are almost always a member of the yakuza. The Japanese mafia requires their members to undergo a ritual called yubitsume, wherein they cut off their own fingers for serious offenses they create against their yakuza family. The pinkie finger is usually the first one amputated and multiple offenses will lead to severing of more fingers. So those who choose to leave the life later on carry the stigma of having been part of the mafia because of their severed fingers. They are often unable to find work and people always look at them strangely.
Enter Hayashi and his prosthetic digits. He is able to make silicone pinkies that can seamlessly make the fingers look like a natural part of the hand, masking the amputation. Each finger costs 3,000 dollars, and if you think the price is too steep, just remember that each digit is carefully painted to match the skin color of the client. Some even keep different colored ones to match the different seasons. Besides, you would not mind spending that much if it means leaving behind the stigma of being a criminal.
Former yakuza members make up 5% of Hayashi’s clientele and he divides them into three categories. There are the ones who are “forced” by their girlfriends who are worried about their reputation. Then there are those ex-members who want to move up the corporate ladder, but are wary about their mafia past being a factor in their promotion. Then there are those who are still in the “family” but need to cover up their affiliation because they are attending a social gathering, like a wedding. The increasing number of former yakuza members though is a reflection of the aggressive push of the police to crack down on organized crime.
[ via ABC News ]