Fake finger industry helps yakuza members lead rightful lives

6 years ago by in Japan

Many of the gangsters that were members of Japan’s yakuza organized crime mobs had their fingers chopped off as a method of punishment. But how can they return to a rightful life after wearing the obvious sign of their previous yakuza membership?

The answer can lay in wearing prosthetics made to look exactly like the missing fingers. “You see how real these fingers are?” said Toru, an ex-yakuza member aged 53, proudly showing off his three artificial fingers. “There was only one time that anyone ever knew they were fake. She was an old lady in her 70s. I told her I was injured in a factory.”

Yakuza gangs are involved in illegal activities such as drugs, prostitution, loan sharking and protection rackets. Toru (not his real name) was one of the 63,200 gangsters in Japan. He used to make his living offering “protection” to the bars of Tokyo’s Kabukicho red light district. But one of his men started to steal and use drugs, and so, in order to calm down his boss, Toru had to slice his left little finger. After one of his men got into trouble again, he had to chop his second finger too. The third chopped one was his own fault, as he got drunk and trashed a bar that belonged to a friend of his boss. And the fourth one was cut after he decided to quit yakuza and get married.

“I met my wife,” he said. “I wanted to marry her, so I quit.” He had to offer something back to yakuza for his resigning and a ring finger seemed to be good enough. But after quitting, Toru needed to get his fingers back in order to lead a lawful life.

Prosthetics specialist Shintaro Hayashi crafted him three silicone fingers that look completely natural. Most of Hayashi’s clients are people who have lost hands, feet or ears in accidents, but around 5 percent are former yakuza, according to the international press.

One artificial finger is expensive – around $3,000 -, but the price is worth it, Toru says, as it shows yakuza members that there is another way. “They could do well if they work hard, even if they have lost some of their fingers. Life is much easier this way,” he said.