The Woman Who Makes Prosthetic Pinkies for Ex-Yakuza Members
February 9, 2016 6:06 PM   Subscribe

When “Mike” spotted a newspaper advert for a clinic making prosthetic fingers in the 90s, he thought it was a scam. But the ex-yakuza member had booked himself a consultation within the hour. For almost a decade, a stumpy pinkie on his left hand had marked out his previous allegiance to the criminal world, preventing him from leading a normal life. A fake little finger, he thought, sounded outlandish, but it was worth a shot. It might allow him to disguise his past—and help shield against Japanese society’s prejudiced view of ex-yakuza members in search of redemption.

Bosmia et al. 2014. Yubitsume: ritualistic self-amputation of the proximal digits among the Yakuza. Journal of Injury and Violence 6(2): 54-56.
posted by ChuraChura (16 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
And, I just had to explain prosthetic fingers to my 3 year old. I don't think she gets it yet.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 6:56 PM on February 9, 2016


Man, I didn't know the Yakuza took people that young! Your 3 year old must be hard.
posted by teponaztli at 6:58 PM on February 9, 2016 [57 favorites]


Seriously, though, this is a really interesting article, and thanks for posting it, ChuraChura.
posted by teponaztli at 6:59 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


It might allow him to disguise his past—and help shield against Japanese society’s prejudiced view of ex-yakuza members in search of redemption.

It's not prejudice if you're being judged for shit you actually did or contributed to.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:25 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Mitrovarr: "It's not prejudice if you're being judged for shit you actually did or contributed to."

I think this is quite similar to (maybe a more intense version of) the difficulties ex-convicts face in US society coming out of imprisonment. You've served your time but there's a shadow sentence carried out afterward, where you're blacklisted from jobs, housing applications, and (depending on the crime) voting. Opportunities to re-enter society are a necessary part of rehabilitation.

Fukushima sounds like an incredibly cool and fearless person. I love the origin story where she started with her prostheses because she saw a man with severe burns. Where others might have responded with fear and disgust, she saw a chance to help and to build a career in helping.
posted by capricorn at 8:08 PM on February 9, 2016 [23 favorites]


It's not prejudice if you're being judged for shit you actually did or contributed to.

Must every punishment be invisible and lifelong, though?
posted by solarion at 8:10 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's not prejudice if you're being judged for shit you actually did or contributed to.

Good news! People were prejudiced against them even before they were Yakuza!

...
According to a 2006 speech by Mitsuhiro Suganuma, a former officer of the Public Security Intelligence Agency, around 60 percent of Yakuza members come from burakumin, the descendants of a feudal outcast class and approximately 30 percent of them are Japanese-born Koreans, and only 10 percent are from non-burakumin Japanese and Chinese ethnic groups.[32][33]

(wiki)

posted by sebastienbailard at 8:27 PM on February 9, 2016 [20 favorites]


capricorn: I think this is quite similar to (maybe a more intense version of) the difficulties ex-convicts face in US society coming out of imprisonment. You've served your time but there's a shadow sentence carried out afterward, where you're blacklisted from jobs, housing applications, and (depending on the crime) voting.

I think a better analogy is the people who tattoo swastikas on their faces while in prison. There's a difference between making mistakes and ending up in jail and deliberately flagging yourself as evil.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:32 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


From TSecondFA:
A 1993 governmental survey found that 45 percent of modern yakuza members had severed finger joints, and that 15 percent had performed the act at least twice.2 Thus, some yakuza members may present with multiple truncated proximal digits. To note, a person who undergoes yubitsume is not necessarily a member of the yakuza. Kirkup cites the case of a bankrupt Japanese businessman indebted to a yakuza member, who was assisted by a South Korean doctor in 2005 to remove one of his fingers with a hammer and chisel following administration of an anesthetic.

Yubitsume has its origins among Japanese gamblers called bakuto. The bakuto introduced yubitsume as punishment for serious offenses that did not warrant execution or expulsion from the criminal organization to which the offender belonged.
I think Capricorn's analogy is quite apt; not having a pinky is nothing like having a symbol of white supremacy tattooed on your your forehead.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:40 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


All else being equal, even if we were gonna roll with that analogy, I think that I'd rather live in a society where people who choose to disavow white supremacy are allowed to.
posted by brennen at 8:44 PM on February 9, 2016 [29 favorites]


Well, either way, my original point was that people don't dislike the yakuza because of 'prejudice', they dislike them because of all the terrible shit they do, which is a completely valid reason.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:19 PM on February 9, 2016


But you also don't know just from the missing finger what specific acts a particular person was involved in, and (since we're talking about organized crime) to what extent they might have been coerced. Same goes for gang-related tattoos, I think?
posted by en forme de poire at 10:58 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Very interesting! It reminds me of this article about an experiment in Canadian prisons in the 1960s where plastic surgeons fixed prisoners' noses, ears and chins, and removed scars. There was some indication that it prevented recidivism because on release the prisoners would be able to fit in to society better and get jobs more easily.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:46 AM on February 10, 2016 [11 favorites]


Both Ken Takakura & Robert Mitchum perform yubitsume upon themselves in the excellent The Yakuza (1974), directed by Sydney Pollack.
posted by On the Corner at 5:18 AM on February 10, 2016


Homer Simpson was in the Yakuza? The things you learn on metafilter...
posted by crazylegs at 6:11 AM on February 10, 2016


That's both a hopeful and really sad article. I really feel for the guy that was full of hope and told his fiancee's parents, and they forced her to get an abortion.
posted by corb at 6:36 AM on February 10, 2016


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