In the Japanese mafia, failure often comes at the price of a finger:
In Japan, a stunted pinkie signifies membership in the yakuza, or Japanese mafia. In a ritual known as "yubitsume," yakuza members are required to chop off their own digits to atone for serious offenses. The left pinkie is usually the first to go, though repeated offenses call for further severing. As a result, those who get out, have a hard time finding work because of the stigma attached to those missing fingers.
If you can get out of the yakuza alive and want to live a normal life, how can you avoid the stigma of missing fingers and all that they imply? Dr. Shintaro Hayashi's solution was to construct highly realistic prosthetic fingers:
The doctor molds silicone prosthetic pinkies, made to seamlessly mask the amputation, making for a smoother transition to the outside world. Priced at nearly $3,000 each, the fingers are carefully painted, to match the exact skin color of the client. Former yakuza members, who make up 5 percent of Hayashi's business, often keep several sets of fingers for different seasons – the light skinned version for winter, and a tanned look for summer.
One client, Shigeru Takei, described his fake fingers as essential to his post-yakuza success:
Takei's current wife convinced him to turn his life around after years spent in jail, but his missing fingers prevented him from landing a job.
"The first time I applied for a job, I got cut after the interview. I couldn't write the truth in my resume because I had been in the yakuza for 20 years," he said. "If you don't have fingers, there's no way to get a sales job."
Takei sought out Hayashi eight years ago after an extensive web search for a prosthetics maker, and credits his fingers for helping him turn his life around. He now works for a home makeover company and says he's only been questioned about his fake fingers once.
(Photo: Akiko Fujita/ABC)