You're ready to turn over a new leaf and leave a life of crime behind, but there's one giant obstacle. Or, one pinkie-sized one: You're missing part of a finger. The Guardian spotlights a most unusual prosthetics market that's seemingly been supplied by one woman for two decades: Japanese gangsters looking to leave the yakuza, but marked by self-amputation. A Vice News article on the topic explains that yubitsume, or finger-shortening, is a centuries-old practice the yakuza adopted as a way for members to atone for breaching the honor code. Those who do will slice off the portion of their left pinkie above the top joint, and it's apparently common practice: A 1993 governmental survey found 45% of modern-day yakuza members have a severed finger joint. Enter Yukako Fukushima.
As an employee of prosthetics company Kawamura Gishi, Fukushima makes the digits, complete with fingerprints, from silicone and a blend of red, blue, yellow, and brown paint. Kyodo reports the 44-year-old can spin some 1,800 skin colors out of the hues, and that when worn, "it is hard to see where the artificial pinkie begins." And its presence helps the former yakuza members achieve things that otherwise might be out of reach, like a job or wife. But in order to produce one, Fukushima first needs proof said member is out, which Kyodo reports she gains in part by having an Osaka Prefectural Police officer interview the would-be buyer. The tips last up to a decade, reports the Guardian, which talks to Fukushima about why she's been at the job even longer. "I was about to look for another job when someone told me that I was the only person in Japan doing this kind of work." (Read more Yakuza stories.)