In the world of the Yakuza, respect goes a long way. And no more than in the form of a truant pinky finger.
Yubitsume, also known as ‘yubi o tobasu’, is a ritual undertaken by members of the yakuza if – to put it mildly – they’re in the bad books.
If a yakuza is found to ‘dishonor’ himself, he is required to cut off the tip of his left pinky finger as a form of atonement.
Although clearly a messy, bloody procedure, the ritual itself is specific. The guilty yakuza will lay his hand palm-down on a clean cloth before cutting his pinky at the first knuckle, which is then wrapped in the cloth and handed to his superior.
The practice goes way back in Japan, in the days when sword grip relied heavily on the pinky finger.
Today, the tradition has waned and apologies are usually made via cold hard cash.
A prosthetics maker by the name of Shintaro Hayashi now specialises in creating silicone replacements for former Yakuza gangsters.
Hayashi told ABC his customers come in three categories: people who are dragged into the office by girlfriends worrying over their reputations, ex-yakuzas who are looking for new work and are concerned about the stigma which comes with a chopped-off pinky, and undercover yakuzas who need to go incognito at a wedding or family event.
Many people keep a fist, to prevent detection. But there comes a point where you can’t hide your finger any longer. Some people have one joint severed, others have worse.
It might be hard to keep a low-profile if you abide by another yakuza tradition: full body tattoo art.
The ink is embedded in a traditional method by inserting the needle under the skin, known as irezumi.
The tattoos are seen as a sign of bravery and have become so popular that even non-yakuza Japanese citizens have been known to get them. Designs include dragons, mountains and women.
However the stigma still exists by and large. The mayor of Osaka even instituted a ban on government workers with tattoos, telling them to look elsewhere in the private sector if they want a job.