Prosthetic Fingers Help Reform Japan's Feared Yakuza Gangsters

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Prosthetic Fingers Helps Japanese Mafia Go Straight

The increasing demand for prosthetic pinkies coincides with an aggressive push to crack down on the yakuza. Gang member numbers have steadily declined, since the Anti-Organized Crime Law went into effect in 1992. But there are still more than 70,000 gang members, according to the National Police Agency. In recent years, police have clamped down on cash flows, gang activities, and passed measures aimed at pressuring legitimate businesses to cut ties with the mob.

In 2012, the U.S. Treasury Department froze assets and barred transactions for the largest yakuza organization, the Yamaguchi-gumi, saying its leaders had racked up "billions of dollars" a year from crimes that include drug and human trafficking, prostitution, money laundering, and fraud.

Takei, who has been out of the underworld for nearly a decade, says the crackdown has discouraged some yakuza bosses from going through with the ritual of yubitsume, fearful the missing pinkie will make them an easier target.

Hayashi has already produced more than 300 prosthetic fingers, and revels in the transformation each one brings.

"If you put on the finger, you can turn your life around," he said.

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