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Prosthetic Pinkies for Former Yakuzas Are a Booming Business

One sign of former yakuza-dom is harder to cover up: missing pinkies

Re-entering normal life after a stint with the legendary Japanese Yakuzas can be tough. And while gangsters can cover huge tattoos with business suits, one sign of yakuza life is harder to cover up: missing pinkies.

In the yakuza world, those who commit an offense are often required to chop off a finger. The pinky is usually the first to go. And while many things are easy to hide, a missing pinky isn’t. Since everybody in Japan knows what a missing pinky means, many pinky-less former yakuza find that they have trouble getting jobs as soon as a potential employer notices their absent digit.

Enter Shintaro Hayashi, a prosthetics maker who builds silicone body parts. He never planned to get into the pinky business, but about 10 years ago, according to ABC, he noticed a sharp uptick in people ordering custom pinkies. Here’s ABC:

Hayashi sums up his clientele in three categories: Those who are dragged into his office by girlfriends worried about their reputations, ex-members who are eager to move up the corporate ladder but worried about the repercussions of their past being exposed, longtime yakuza who have no intention of getting out, but need to cover up for a child’s wedding or grandchild’s sporting event.

The pinkies Hayashi makes cost his patients about $3,000 each. They’re paying for a custom finger, painted to look just like the rest of the hand. And he says that former yakuza often have a few different fingers for different occasions and visit Hayashi every so often for touchups on the painting of the prosthetic.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Getting the Prosthetic Is Easy, Compared to Getting It To Do What You Want
Rare Crane Gets a Prosthetic Leg, Joins Hoard of Amazing Animal Prosthesis Users

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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